RANDOM ACTS, THREE TALES FROM BOYSTOWN, Potter Productions, at the Playground. Very random indeed, but that’s the point of this collection of one-acts about the men of Boystown, Lakeview’s “gay ghetto.” Chicago playwright Howard Casner depicts three sets of friends or lovers who are waiting, reading, and hoping for something to happen. Nothing does, and each of Casner’s bittersweet vignettes, set in telling locations around town, ends in a believable loss. Persuasively presented, they focus on characters trying to make sense of love’s slapdash risk taking. The sketches may seem unshaped and the dialogue haphazard, but Casner is faithful to the exasperating and consoling messiness of life.

A Cold Coming We Had of It happens on an el platform during a blizzard; like the trains going nowhere, these two lovers are adrift. In A Misreading of Camus a boy in a bar discovers that only his intellectual snobbishness prevented him from a deadly encounter with a Cunanan-like spree killer. Finally, in A Little Lear and Laundry, two men doing their wash briefly bond. One, wanting to escape a suffocating liaison with a yuppie boyfriend, recalls a high school performance of King Lear that went disastrously wrong but was more spontaneous than his enervating relationship with this control freak.

Casner depicts these near misses and near hits with a compassion echoed by Aaron Testard’s loving if leisurely staging. The actors’ portrayals are so right that the characters could be set down in Berlin, Sidetrack, or Roscoe’s and seem right at home.

–Lawrence Bommer