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Theater Reviews: He Asked for It, Office Sonata, Hedda Gabler 

Also, Safe, The Glass Menagerie, and more

Monday, May 5 2008
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BIKING WITH ANDREW SCOTT is an attempt to grapple with the processes of grief, after the suicide of an AIDS-afflicted young man, Andy (Robert Seeley), sends a trio of people whose lives he touched through the famous five stages. These people are Andy’s brusque, workaholic female friend, Stephanie (Pamela Donnelly); his lover, Chad (Scott Crawford); and his mother, Pastor Marie (Bonnie Tyler). Marie has formed her own evangelical church, with a chorus of “minions” following her in rabid agreement and with some appealing a cappella backup that’s among the highlights of Christopher Holder’s staging. Debbie Bolsky’s play is carved into five acts, each depicting one of the stages of grief, which is cumbersomely announced and defined at the start of the section. The focus, however, is on Stephanie, while Andy’s ghost hovers with as much difficulty saying goodbye as the rest of them. Bolsky bolsters the abundant psychodrama with riffs of humor, including scenes with a fortuneteller (Mona Lee Wylde) seeking to get a degree in psychology. I found the quirkiness so strained, the characters’ expressions of despondency so self-absorbed and the play’s focus so diffused, I checked out emotionally. Write Act Repertory Theatre, 6126 Yucca Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru May 17. (323) 960-7792. A Dillon Street Players Production. (Steven Leigh Morris)

 

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click to flip through (4) The Glass Menagerie
  • The Glass Menagerie
     
 

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The Glass Menagerie

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Biking With Andrew Scott

 

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Safe

 

FROM DOOR TO DOOR When Mary (Cheryl David), the central figure in playwright James Sherman’s genial character portrait of three generations of women in a Jewish American family, vows that she won’t treat her daughter the same way her mother treated her, you know one thing’s for certain: Mary is going to turn into her mother before the show’s over. As a girl, Mary is browbeaten and intimidated by her imperious, pragmatic mother, Bessie (Nan Tepper), whose harshness is a clear product of the difficult life she has had to endure. As an adult, Mary dotes on her own daughter, Deborah (Robyn Cohen), a more liberated child who nevertheless grows up to have a rocky marriage. Sherman’s drama, which consists of scattershot vignettes that take us briskly through the years, sometimes seems pickled in sentimentality. One might wish that director Howard Teichman’s intimate but haltingly paced production boasted more psychological depth, but that is as much the flaw of Sherman’s glib script, which is top-heavy with too-easily-resolved situations. David cuts an unexpectedly tragic figure as the daughter who does exactly what her mother wants but winds up living vicariously through her own child. However, the show’s star turn is Tepper’s fierce matriarch, a performance as sympathetic as it is terrifying. The Electric Lodge Theatre, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2 p.m.; thru June 1. (310) 823-0710. An H. and R. Displays Inc. Production in association with Theatre 40. (Paul Birchall)

 

GO  THE GLASS MENAGERIE Who’d have guessed that the image of a tiny glass unicorn, and the severing of its horn, could still pack such an emotional punch in Tennessee Williams’ early dating play. Or the sight of shy, homely Laura (Tawny Mertes) blowing out candles one by one can still come attached to such devastating symbolism for her future. These are shards of simple, tender poeticism so hard to find in new play writing. Director Brian Kite’s production is largely by-the-numbers — amping up the dreamy aspects of memory in the original piano and violin underscoring, composed by Allan Moon and with sound designer Jason Duplissea. The introspective approach of Toby Meuli’s narrator, would-be poet Tom, makes for a lack of style, even competence, in his audience addresses, somewhat remediated when he enters the scenes and battles for solitude and independence with his mother, Amanda (Lori Berg). There’s a depression across the country and Tom, hanging by a thread to his warehouse job, is the only breadwinner. The rest is all Amanda’s imperious, meddling rectitude, which Berg handles with stoic dignity. Mertes’ shell-shocked Laura comes with layers of sensitivity, and the scene with her one “gentleman caller” — on which Amanda pins all hope for Laura’s future — is just perfect, thanks largely to Stephen Van Dorn’s sweet, cavalier guest, Jim, who arouses such false hope in Laura, beautifully transmitted by Mertes. “I am often disappointed,” says Jim, but I’m never discouraged — right before he breaks Laura’s heart. Crossley Terrace Theater, Hollywood Presbyterian Church grounds, 1760 N. Gower St., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; thru June 8. (323) 462-8460. (Steven Leigh Morris)

 

GO  HE ASKED FOR IT Writer Erik Patterson has written an AIDS play with a difference. His take on the subject is fresh, provocative and unpredictable, his characters are engagingly human, and he finds plenty of comedy along the way. Young Ted (Joe Egender) flees Wyoming for Los Angeles, hoping to make a career in show business. A shy, over-romantic, inhibited gay virgin, he’s too fearful to follow up on his sexual opportunities. He’s been disowned by his family, except for his loyal sister Sophie (Rebecca Sigl), and he’s clueless about navigating L.A.’s gay scene. Advised by a guy at the gym (Brad C. Light), he ventures into an Internet chat room, where he meets handsome karaoke-singing Henry (Ron Morehouse). They’re soon in love, but Henry is HIV-positive and breaks up with Ted lest he infect him. Desperately love-struck, Ted decides he wants to be infected, like Henry, and deliberately seeks out Rigby (Christopher Neiman), another positive with a taste for barebacking. The play then shifts focus to Rigby, who resents his own affliction and actively seeks to infect others, till guilt catches up with him. Neil H. Weiss sensitively directs the terrific ensemble, including Joel Scher and Joe Roche, on Carlos Moore’s neat minimalist set. Theatre of Note, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., thru June 1. www.theatreofnote.com or (323) 856-8611. (Neal Weaver)

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