YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL, Pegasus Players. For the first time in recent memory, the professionals outnumber the amateurs in this, the 13th annual Young Playwrights Festival. Noncommittal performances and perfunctory production values have been replaced by sophisticated acting and lively direction, making this two-hour-plus evening whiz by (as long as you don’t get bogged down trying to understand Susan Kaip’s inexplicable set, which seems a cross between the Academy Awards and Superman’s ice palace).

Vigorous attention to detail brings out all the strengths in these one-acts by local high school students. Quin McCarthy’s Shaving the Fish, about a young man who self-medicates by chain-smoking after losing his girlfriend, is the sketchiest of the four–though you’ve got to love any adolescent in post-Reagan America who makes cigarettes look so delicious. Laura Nunez displays sharp wit in Let Me Eat Cake, about a 25-year-old woman “stuck in a niche” (as opposed to a rut) after a string of disastrous dates. And Mercedes MacDonald creates some truly terrifying moments in The Blues, about a high school cheerleader raped by her best friend’s boyfriend.

But the evening belongs to Jake Berlin, whose Reverberation shows him to be something of a Chekhov in the making. He strands a group of lovers and ex-lovers in a snowbound apartment, then subtly exposes the heartless desperation of people trying to force love out of contempt. If a successful playwright ever emerges from this festival, my money’s on Berlin.

–Justin Hayford