The loaded situation in writer-director Neil LaButes love story allows for a kind of velvet glove to reach inside ones heart, and then swirls around the intestines for a while before making its withdrawal. This leaves us, well, touched but in a way thats far from sentimental. Ed Harris stars in this monologue, set in a Northern Illinois funeral home. His wifes casket her photo perched on its lid forms the centerpiece of Sibyl Wickersheimers set. Cricket S. Meyers sound design offers the whispers and echoes of voices in an anteroom, where our bereaved widower, Ed Carr (Harris), ostensibly floats that would be his public self. But thats not what were seeing. He refers to himself being back there with them while he speaks to us through the mirror of his subconscious. What we get is his real eulogy, with the secrets he wont tell them, because hes a private person, he insists. (He wont tell us some secrets, such as his wifes final four words, either.) He has a blazingly clear reason to be so private, which is the melodramatic revelation near plays end, which forces us to confront the definition of love, and how that definition rubs up against social propriety. I didnt buy that revelation, not within the colloquial, ruminative and realistic confines of LaButes direction. But thats a small matter. The big matter is the gorgeous combination of LaButes digressive and piercingly insightful love letter with Harris tender-furious childlike and ultimately profound interpretation. Ed Carr is a bit like a chain-smoking Dostoyevskian narrator, who, while drifting onto free-associated topics and bilious commentary (on anti-smoking campaigns, for example), he is, finally, on message. And his message about the essence of love is upsetting and unimpeachable in the same breath. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Wstwd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru March 7. (310) 208-5454.
Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 7. Continues through March 7, 2010