By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Hoping to drive his point home through sarcasm, Kellogg's book, The Return to Morality, parodies the arguments and doublespeak of the right with extended arguments comprising hate speech.
The opening scene finds Kellogg in the office of an oily publisher named Le Becque (Jim Hanna), who exults over the book's best-seller potential, blind to the writer's satirical intent. They agree to market the book as serious and only later admit that the whole thing is a hoax.
Published as nonfiction, the book lands a rave review in The New York Times as a brilliant exegesis from the extreme right. Kellogg's lefty Brit wife (Catherine O'Connor), though, starts to feel queasy. And after revolting radio and talk-show appearances, in which Kellogg — aping the caricature à la Andy Kaufman — pumps his fist at his own anti-Semitic jokes, the author finds himself on 60 Minutes being pilloried by Lesley Stahl (Jennifer Lynn Davis). "And why did you change your name?" she asks him, and the question harkens back to the heart of the matter for both Arthur Kellogg and Mark Rothko: How do you change your name and keep your soul?
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Six actors play almost two dozen roles, mostly with finesse, under Mark L. Taylor's staging. The anchor is Weisman's endearing, physically odd and slightly bewildered Arthur Kellogg.
The play is at its best when it shows the circus nightmare of making a joke that you think is clear, and having it so woefully misunderstood that you stand embraced by people you loathe, and reviled by those you admire.
Yet the play takes on some painful contortions in order to drive home that point. Even Kellogg's doctor, active in the Anti-Defamation League, refuses to treat him because of his book — the first in too many plot twists that grow increasingly strained.
The play is enjoyable but not believable — its generalities are more persuasive than its specifics.
RED | By John Logan | A Donmar Warehouse production presented by Center Theatre Group
at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave.,
dwntwn. | Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat, 2:30 & 8 p.m.;
Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m.; through Sept. 9. | (213) 628-2772 | centertheatregroup.org
THE RETURN TO MORALITY | By Jamie Pachino | Presented by the Production Company at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hlywd. | Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Sept. 8. | (800) 838-3006 | theprodco.com