TAIL EATS SNAKE, Side Project, at the Side Studio. The title for this showcase of nine short plays comes from a gnostic symbol of nature’s renewal. But most of the writers–aiming for “a socio-political look at the passage of time and the patterns that emerge,” according to artistic director Adam Webster–focus on war, civil disorder, and death. The evening’s dramatic metaphors range from the obvious–hunting doves for sport–to the enigmatic: an American marketer despairs of selling cotton to the Chinese. The approach is sometimes didactic–Designer Genes delivers a symposium on cloning issues awkwardly disguised as conversation–and sometimes lyrical, as in a poetic montage of a suicide bomber’s last thoughts.

Twenty actors playing 37 characters is a lot to absorb in two and a half hours. This welter of talent in the rough, however, reveals some names to remember: Playwright Myles Weber, whose Expatriates (under Michael Graham’s direction) offers a glimpse of lovers living in the shadow of terrorist attacks. Actor Kipp Moorman, who lends a sly humor to the verbose Little Green Man. And director Lisa Krichilsky, who along with actors Ricardo Gamboa and Lindley Gibbs and a live goldfish render Bilal Dardail’s flimsy Staring Contest, or The Enemy In Orange inexplicably appealing.