by Ann Fletcher

Like the ’57 Chevy, some movies go down in history as American classics.

So when Huntersville playwright Mark Havlik fused the national obsession for cars with components from the epic film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” he rode it all the way to a spot in Warehouse Performing Arts Center’s comedy play fest, “Car Craze.”

The second annual comedy invitational celebrates North and South Carolina playwrights and actors.

Havlik is one of seven featured playwrights and one of three from the Lake Norman area.

Like the 1968 sci-fi film, Havlik’s spoof, “2012: A Driving Odyssey,” features Dave, a man, and HAL, an intelligent computer. But this time, HAL is Dave’s highly regarded GPS.

HAL expertly plots a route to Dave’s wife’s sister’s house, the house of a woman who makes quiche. Only quiche. Nothing but quiche.

Dave’s wife doesn’t share Dave’s affection for HAL (or his aversion to quiche.) When HAL knowingly announces their route includes numerous stops for Dave’s wife’s overactive bladder, it sends Dave’s wife into a tailspin. How could Dave share private details about her personal need to pit stop with a virtual stranger like HAL?

She ejects from the car. Dave and HAL regroup by plotting a course to a five-star steak house.

A call to area playwrights to create comedies about cars, garnered 42 submissions. Winners were selected by a panel that read scripts blind, without knowing which playwright wrote them, Warehouse founder and artistic director Marla Brown said.

Havlik is a former Wachovia Bank business manager who started writing full time in 2005 after one of his novels was named a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner -William Wisdom creative writing competition.

He writes novels, plays and screenplays, often composing in his head before he puts them on paper.

“I always know the last page and who’s going to say the last piece of dialogue,” he said. As a Juilliard-trained musician, maintaining the tonal quality of his writing comes naturally.

“I think in musical terms,” he said. “By knowing exactly what the last page is, I can come tonally back to that conclusion and resolve everything. It helps me keep my characters in proper pitch.”

Featured playwright Josh Lanier also recently made a career change, leaving his job as managing editor of The Herald Weekly to write on a freelance and contract basis. His comedy short “Comin’ Clean” depicts a family road trip during which a college-aged son shares news with his parents. Turns out, they have news for him, too.

“The car becomes a confessional,” Lanier, a longtime fan of “Saturday Night Live,” said. He started writing comedy in college to entertain friends. Eventually, it became a practice, he said, a way to unwind.

He’s also been hired to write for Charlotte-based Robot Johnson, a sketch comedy group that performs regularly in NoDa.

People use comedy to cope, Lanier said. His job is to make it relevant.

“It’s always been important to me to connect with people in my writing,” Lanier said. “Comedy is just an extension of that.”

Cornelius playwright Tina Siadak approaches comedy by taking an ordinary situation and adding something extreme. Her comedy short, “The Grocery Whisperer,” depicts a bagger who places an excessive amount of passion in his mundane job.

Siadak, a 2007 Hopewell High School graduate and 2011 Duke University graduate, moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She worked in TV production and editing, but missed the South and living near family. She recently moved back and works in freelance marketing, keeping comedic skills sharp writing a blog called Lettertag.

“I’m excited about this play fest and getting involved in the local writing culture,” she said. “The more I look into it, the more I find.”

Want to go?

Warehouse Performing Arts Center, 9216-A Westmoreland Road, Cornelius, presents “Car Craze,” 10-minute comedy shorts written by North and South Carolina playwrights. Performances are May 31-June 2 and June 7-9 at 8 p.m. and June 3 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 or $15 for groups of eight or more, seniors and students. For tickets, visit www.warehousepac.com, email tickets@warehousepac.com or call the box office at 704-619-0429. House and beverage bar opens 30 minutes prior to curtain.