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''Slings & Arrows'' Season 2

By RD Heldenfels Published: February 16, 2006

In high school and in college, I did a little acting. Not well. In college and in my twenties, I did some writing for the stage, mainly comedy sketches. Also not very well. But both experiences gave me a chance to hang around theaters, to see some of the dynamics that go into productions -- the clash of egos, the sexual and emotional tension, the struggle to get things right, the accidents -- and the utter joy that comes at the end, if the play comes off as well as everyone hoped.

I bring this up as a possible explanation of why I am so delighted by ''Slings & Arrows,'' the Canadian series whose second season begins airing on Sundance Channel at 9 p.m. Sunday. But I suspect that even if I had never set foot in a theater, I would like this comedy about a struggling theater festival. It is well written and acted, very funny about the dirty business of theater while still absolutely in love with the idea of a great stage performance. (Advisory: The show has some R-rated content.)

Paul Gross of ''Due South'' fame stars as Geoffrey Tenant, a brilliant but oft-unbalanced director whose newest task is to mount a production of ''Macbeth.'' (The first season revolved around ''Hamlet.'') ''Macbeth'' was a pet project of his mentor and predecessor, who has left behind boxes of notes for a planned production; Geoffrey consults both the notes and -- like the first season -- the ghost of his friend.

''Macbeth'' is full of trouble, from its curse to a leading man who is not one to take Geoffrey's direction without challenge -- if at all. Still, ''Macbeth'' is just part of what faces the New Burbage festival. It is desperate to bring in a young audience, and that desperation leads to a wildly iconoclastic marketing company. And another director is tackling ''Romeo & Juliet'' in a way that could prove disastrous.

But, oh, that ''Macbeth.'' At the end of the first season, the glimpses we saw of ''Hamlet'' were well-executed but not startling. The maneuvers around ''Macbeth'' lead to a production I would pay to see. For now, though, I'm happy with the hints of what happens onstage and the delightful doings in the wings and beyond. It's grand enough to make me want to act again -- and so wild that I know I'm better off just watching.

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