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Forgiveness

What happens to love when the specter of childhood sexual abuse rears its ugly head? Soon-to-be-married Jill (Emily Bergl) and Ben (Peter Smith) are driving to visit Jill’s dad, Sam (Morlan Higgins), and stepmom, Pat (Lee Garlington), when Jill breaks it to Ben that her father raped her when she was 13. Twenty years have passed. A recovered alcoholic who served time for his crime, Sam — now a born-again Christian — actively struggles for redemption. Jill has forgiven him, but Ben, newly apprised, is horrified and repulsed. Prodded by Jill’s anxious scrutiny — will this new knowledge change his feelings for her? — Ben steadily becomes angrier and more confused. Playwright David Sculner’s aptly titled play meaningfully examines the various ties that bind us to our loved ones, as well as the snags and hurdles to be mended and overcome if these bonds are to remain secure. Directed by Matt Shakman, the production’s weakest element appears at the beginning in the interchange between Jill and Ben, which reverberates with little more persuasiveness than a polished staged reading; also, sans lighting or sound effects, it’s difficult for the performers to sustain the illusion of driving. Once the couple arrives at its destination, however, the drama becomes more compelling, as the dynamics of Sam and Pat’s marriage come into play; the presence of Jill’s adolescent stepsister (Kendall Toole) ups the ante for everyone. Black Dahlia Theatre, 5453 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sun., 8 p.m.; through March 28. (800) 838-3006, thedahlia.com.
Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: Feb. 27. Continues through April 11, 2010

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