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American Dead 

Thursday, Jul 31 2008
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Brett Neveu’s play, first commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago — where the playwright earned his wunderkind reputation before immigrating to the film and TV biz out here — recalls an early stage work by Lanford Wilson, Rimers of Eldritch. Both works place their focus on the subtleties and vagaries of plain talk by plain folk, Midwesterners whose cities are rusting, whose farms are being foreclosed and bought out, yet they endure with pleasantries, verbal niceties that become lifeboats bobbing over depths of anguish and violence in the making. This places on the actors and director the burden of responsibility for capturing the unspoken truths beneath the hollow veneer of words. Chicago emigré Dado stages the kaleidoscope of scene with meticulous attention to subtext and the language of facial ticks and flinches, of sadness emerging vaporlike from still faces. The play’s event concerns a long-ago shooting of a local sheriff’s deputy (Deborah Puette) and clerk (understudy Daniel Montgomery) in a grocery store robbery by unknown assailants, and the attempt by the woman’s partner, (Paul Dillon), to find the killers. The chipper barkeep (Bradley Fisher) asks a whole bunch of questions to out-of-towner Dennis (Darin Singleton) regarding a news story of Dennis’ son hiding himself away, and the play slowly funnels in on a conversation Dennis heard in prison, which could be a missing link to the ancient investigation. The play’s core, however, comes from the murdered deputy’s forlorn and bewildered brother (Mark St. Amant), who has become both an alcoholic and an idiot savant — desperate for the attention of his late sister’s widower (David Paluck), as he and his new wife (Ann Noble) pack to move out of town. The play seems superficially trite for a while, until we adjust to the production’s languid rhythms, and its portrait of lingering grief. Dado’s staging even overcomes the venue’s echoey qualties, which double the actors’ workload. The ensemble work is finely tuned, while Ian Garret’s atmospheric platform set and Leigh Allen’s tender lighting design add visual poetry to the lament for somebody and something having slipped away so pointlessly. Theatre/Theater, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Aug. 24. (323) 960-7726. A Rogue Machine production.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: July 19. Continues through Aug. 24, 2008

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Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

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