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Thursday, Nov 27 2008
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About to lose his job and seething with rage in general, and road rage in particular, Man (Kevin Vavasseur), while seeking a shortcut home, gets lost on a mountain road outside L.A. The fantasy dramatized in playwright Bernardo Solano’s ambitious, provocative yet ultimately pedestrian drama is so allegorical, Man may as well be Everyman, on a journey into the unknown. But Solano doesn’t have that morality play in mind; rather, the Columbian legend of La Madremonte — a mythical goddess and punishing defender of the environment. Here, she’s named Woman (Marissa Garcia), a sensuous beauty whom Man picks up on the side of the road after noticing her stranded when her car breaks down. Her erotic come-ons (want a bite of my nectarine? – as she slurps the juice while cradling the fruit in a napkin) render the drama a head trip in which reality, Man’s reality, that is, slip-slides in and out of imaginings, including a car crash that may or may not be real, sort of like his passenger. This is a portrait of a lonely man with an ungrateful wife and a hole in his heart, bruised to the point of maddening defensiveness while barely clinging to some fragile code of loyalty, and being tested by this phantom-in-distress. The drama, directed by Tina Sanchez, played out in two adjacent car seats, is too static to be cinematic, despite an impressive ride-film backdrop of a mountain road at dusk, perpetually slipping away, projected behind the car seats. Nor is the play particularly theatrical for exactly the same reason — two people sitting still and having a conversation. The dramatic motion is as illusory as the play’s female phantom. The Genet-like psychological gamesmanship between the pair wears down after the metaphors have sunk in, which is by intermission, if not sooner. These dramatic potholes might not have been so evident were the chemistry between the actors more convincing. Garcia possesses a snappy, freewheeling seductiveness and mystery that keep bouncing off the steely facade of Vavasseur’s resistance. He’s a man-child, perpetually half a beat behind her, and it’s hard to discern if that’s an issue with the character or the performance. Sanchez has cast four actors who rotate with different partners each performance, so there may yet be a sizzling combination that will lift the play into something transcendent. Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., Third Floor, downtown; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (323) 883-1717. A Company of Angels production.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 21. Continues through Dec. 14, 2008

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Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

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