THIS SIDE OF STRANGE: FOUR SHORT PLAYS AND ONE UGLY ONE, Annex Theatre Company, at Live Bait Theater. This evening of five short plays includes its share of literary cliches. In Michael Mark Chemers’s Innocuous Remark, casual lovers make literally generic conversation (“Teasing Banter,” “Ambiguous Reply”), and his Screamer, a spoof of The Dick Van Dyke Show, features–yawn–werewolves. Sarah Morton’s Fever Dream: Episode Three could easily have turned out a similarly sophomoric exercise, in the Inspecting Carol mode, but for the accuracy of her parody and the cast’s poker-faced sincerity.

The remaining two plays, both by Chemers–The Wreck of the Cutty Perdition, a bittersweet tale of a novelist losing his girlfriend to his occupation, and Nessus, in which a Jewish scientist revenges himself on the Nazis for whom he’s forced to work–show a higher ratio of substance to style, though both scripts are wordy. But intelligently focused performances by the Annex Theatre Company cast make even the occasional treading of water eminently watchable.

–Mary Shen Barnidge