Round and round we go: Arthur Schnitzler's roundelay of pass-the-torch love affairs involves a Prostitute, a Soldier, a Parlor Maid, a Young Gentleman, a Young Wife, a Husband, a Sweet Young Thing, a Poet, an Actress and a Count. This is the world premiere of the late Carl R. Mueller's subtly modernized adaptation, which has hints of contemporary colloquialisms while sustaining the stiff flavor of 19th-century Austria. Two personable young actors, Alyson Weaver and Ken Barnett, portray the entire gallery of characters. Thank goodness for the suspended, delicate neon signs that have the names of their characters glowing in the sky (set design by Steve Barr), or the characters would be hard to differentiate. This may be the central weakness in a technically polished production (John Zalewski's sound design has jazzy or pop strains playing subtly behind many of the courtships; Soojin Lee's lacy costumes hint at the late 1800s). On the other hand, the lack of differentiation may be the point of Larry Biederman's staging. Well into the second hour of this dance, sans intermission, the actors start lip-synching their prerecorded dialogue in a blending effect. Sometimes the recorded voices are disembodied. In a later scene, the Count kisses the video image of the Actress on a wall, showing that he's enamored of the idea of her rather than the person herself. It's all a bit Wooster Groupish, but that company's actors sizzle. If the purpose is to show the disembodiment of what we call romance in its various permutations, the actors still need a range of features to define the progression of characters, or the directorial vision disintegrates into a long, technically ambitious blur. Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Feb. 1. (323) 960-7792.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Jan. 10. Continues through Feb. 1, 2009