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Theater Reviews: Tragedy: A Tragedy, Waiting in the Wings, Good Bobby 

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Monday, Oct 20 2008
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GO  TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY “Is the sense of tragedy palpable?” presses stately news anchor Frank (Frederick Ponzlov) to infield reporter John (Matthew McCray). If either man — or fellow correspondents Michael (Daniel Getzoff) and Constance (Sarah Boughton) — recognizes the question’s absurdity, they aren’t showing it. Gifted with gravitas and eloquence, the four graveyard-shift journalists in Pulitzer finalist Will Eno’s sharp satire on round-the-clock spin are honing panic that the sun has set and may never rise again. Is it true? Facts are nonexistent, but the puffery they spout to fill airtime sure sounds like a crisis. And, as Frank notes, if the morning comes, then we’ll have to pray for afternoon. Our own doubts about whether the crisis even exists cloud Eno’s meaning. But as the pressure to say something unmoors all the newscasters, their anchorman crumbles, begging for nonsense human-interest stories — even little lies. Donald Boughton’s crisply comedic staging deepens as the play eventually reveals its darker resonances: A fumbling man on the street (Jonathan C.K. Williams) first tries to will the media back to life as if they were Tinkerbells or stock market indexes. The man reminds us that if we’re united, our shared uncertainties can become our common faith. Son of Semele, 3301 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through Nov. 16. (800) 383-3006 or www.sonofsemele.org. (Amy Nicholson)

 
GO WAITING IN THE WINGS Noël Coward’s career was in eclipse, and he was dealing with his own declining powers when he wrote this bittersweet comedy set in a charity retirement home for aging actresses. The result is a sentimental and nostalgic valentine to Edwardian era theater, and the leading ladies he adored in his youth. Perhaps its strongest asset is its wonderful roles for older actresses, fully realized in this production. The affectionate portraits are strung on three strands of plot: the long-running feud between glamorous Lotta Bainbridge (Katherine Henryk) and her ancient rival May Davenport (Magda Harout); the efforts of the home’s residents to persuade “the committee” to build them a solarium; and the intrusion of a pushy newspaper columnist (Corinne Shore) who invades their space in search of a “human-interest” story. The piece is saved from soap opera bathos by Coward’s wit, and frank acknowledgement of the realities of decline and death. Director Charlie Mount has assembled a fine large ensemble who offer richly nuanced performances. Among the highlights is Betty Garrett’s impish turn as a woman who has retreated into blissful memories, dementia and playing with matches. Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 2 p.m., through Nov. 23. (323) 851-7977 or www.theatrewest.org. (Neal Weaver)

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