Too, there’s a numbing regularity to the scenes, which usually begin with opera or classical music oozing out of Glenda’s stereo, quickly followed by Joy’s appearance. The actors are stuck in single-note performances, with only Webb even coming close to being engaging. Her problem is that Joy doesn’t make sense, either as Glenda’s friend or even as a comic foil. If, as a contemporary professional woman, Glenda seems a little pat, Joy appears to have been reincarnated in toto from another era in theater, when sassy, nail-filing blonds came with names like Trixie or Roxy. When Joy says a male friend is taking her to a French movie, we sense we’re supposed to find the notion of watching a foreign film unspeakably effete; likewise, when she mentions that this same fellow plans to take her to an exhibition of “avant-garde sculpture,” part of us struggles to imagine what the term could possibly mean in the 21st century, but another part suspects everyone’s supposed to roar with laughter at the very idea of abstract representation — you know, misshapen nudes with holes in their tummies.
While the Pasadena Playhouse is to be applauded for developing and premiering new work (something it hasn’t often done), Socol’s dramedy remains a little play tweezered onto a big stage, where its flaws are generously amplified by the space and Sullivan’s direction. Throughout Bicoastal Woman’s two hours, you never shake the feeling that there’s something terribly patched-together — and disingenuous — about a work whose central character laments the lives of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton in one breath, and in the next claims to have just spent $4 million on unseen property in Montana. The immediate problem is that Socol can’t make up his mind as to whether he wants to write sitcom puffery or a serious examination of mental decay; the larger question is whether he is capable of writing either.
DRIFT| By JON TUTTLE | Presented by THEATER OF NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood | Through June 14
BICOASTAL WOMAN| By GARY SOCOL | Presented by PASADENA PLAYHOUSE, 39 S. El Molino Ave. | Through June 1