Review: ‘2 Across’ leaves us feeling upbeat

Take heart: It’s 2015, and Charlotte’s theater scene continues to stretch and evolve. “2 Across” is an amusing romantic comedy being performed consecutively in two venues. The first is Upstage in NODA, a quirky second-floor space where dinner is optional and drinks are served during the performance. There’s not a bad seat in the house. The Warehouse PAC in Cornelius is a traditional black box space, with refreshments served in the lobby.

This show will kick off an excellent date night for those who have ever attempted the New York Times Saturday crossword puzzle. It will also suit if you love a one-act, 90-minute play, or if humorous wordplay is your pleasure. The small performance space makes for an intimate production that relies on witty repartee and precise comedic timing.

Playwright Jerry Mayer’s romantic comedy is performed by Three Bone Theatre, a member of The League of Independent Theatres of Charlotte. It’s the theater’s third season, and founders Carmen Bartlett and Robin Tynes are Catawba College graduates.

The setting is a Bay Area Rapid Transit car on route from San Francisco to East Bay Point. The players are a man and a woman taking BART from the airport to the end of the line in the very early morning. This action is a conversation, one of those priceless events that occasionally occur between complete strangers in an anonymous setting. The catalyst is a crossword puzzle.

Mayer is a seasoned television writer whose credits include episodes of “All in the Family,” “M.A.S.H.” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The play has the best components of a successful sitcom. There’s an awkward but interesting chemistry between the actors. There’s plenty of straight lines that provide good fodder for quips and retorts. And there’s nothing to distract from the dialogue, which means it has to be good, and it is.

Mara Rosenberg and Phil Robertson play “He” and “She,” two well-dressed and well-versed people, each at stages of life where intrigue is on the wane. Both have life issues that bear examination. The crossword puzzle ignites the potential spark. It’s an ingenious device, as those who attempt that ornery weekend challenge are part of an informal club of people who have a certain respect for their own intelligence. In this case, it opens the door for a witty dance of words between strangers who have something in common.

The stage is a simple train platform with rails for balance and signs that dictate no smoking and no food. The actors don’t have many places to go, and Rachel Jeffreys’ direction lets them navigate the small set with grace.

This is a light-hearted vignette with undertones of deeper meaning about identity. It’s great to see barebones theater in what the city has dubbed its funky arts district.