The titular Puerto Rican dish becomes the central metaphor for human and humane relationships in Edward H. Hernandezs tightly drawn, extremely literate but unfinished morality tale. Brian Turley convincingly portrays Nathan, a Midwestern MBA hatchet man, brought to New York by a powerful corporation to oversee a tsunami of layoffs. Rafael Robles smoothly embodies Victor, the companys wise and enigmatically spiritual custodian, who offers a perfect foil to Nathans worldly indifference. But it is Victors lovely daughter, Angela (an earnest if overplayed performance by Andrea Munoz), and her Tupperware dish of arroz con pollo that lures Nathans innate decency out from behind his calloused heart. The trios ultimate goodness is sorely tested by the cold-blooded greed of the CEOs daughter, Emily (played with apt chilliness by Katherine Leilani McDowell). Mary Jo DuPrey directs the fine cast, with an intensity that matches the density of the text, but it is the very skill of the company that reveals the plays ultimate weakness. This is a rare example of a playwright who needs to add more: In its current 70-minute incarnation, the characters and plot are revealed too quickly with so little development, there are few surprises besides a rather unconvincing melodramatic finale. The moral is spun by the Zenlike Victor in the first few moments, and the rest is quick and interesting, but its not a particularly suspenseful flight toward an outcome thats evident almost from the start. Ruby Theatre at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun 7 p.m.; through Dec 21. (323)-960-7863 or www.plays411.com/arrozconpollo.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 4. Continues through Dec. 21, 2008