A Wolf Inside the Fence

"You can't lose your way in a history class. You can only go backwards," says Linus McBride (Arthur Hanket), a history teacher who seems to be losing his passion, and possibly his marbles. The target of the advice is Marion McNeely (Charlotte Chanler), a troubled transfer student at McBride's public Oregon high school. With dark secrets of his own, Linus cultivates an attachment to Marion. At the same time, Judy cultivates an interest in the girl, with whom she shares more than she would care to admit, while losing interest in her boyfriend, Math teacher Harold Carson (Colin Walker). What develops is an intense series of events as these wounded animals become entwined in each other's lives. Playwright Joseph Fisher weaves a rich tapestry of dark chocolate secrets and twisted desires, pairing it perfectly with a dry champagne wit that sparkles in the mouths of this talented cast. Hanket, particularly, wields Fisher's rapier wit with impeccable comic timing and an understated manner that leads to some devastatingly funny lines. The credit for this must, of course, be shared with director Benjamin Burdick, who strikes a fine balance between the piece's humor and horror. The minimally staged performance is a good reminder that when fancy sets, lighting and other aspects of modern stagecraft are put away, the heart of good drama is compelling characters and a well-crafted text. Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (performance dates vary); through September 11. (323) 882-6912. openfist.org.
Aug. 5-7, 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 8, 2 p.m.; Aug. 12-13, 8 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 21, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 29, 2 p.m.; Sept. 2-3, 8 p.m.; Sept. 10-11, 8 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Aug. 5. Continues through Oct. 9, 2010


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