We try not to have so many guests. It disturbs whats left of the neighbors, says Michel as he stumbles around his Paris home in the dark, falling down stairs, knocking over crudités, and scalding himself on a teakettle. Its all rather amusing ... until you realize that its 1944 and theres a Nazi patrol outside. This just the sort of dark humor that characterizes writer-director David Jettes farcical take on an actual evening at the house of Michel Leiris (Michael Bulger) when members of the French Resistance produced Pablo Picassos play, Desire Caught by the Tail. The play itself is nonsensically awful (but oh, how the man could paint), so Jette has instead written about the circumstances surrounding its production, a sort of play without a play. In it, Leiris, his wife Zette (Jenny Byrd), Albert Camus (Tyler Jenich), Jean-Paul Sartre (Patrick Baker), Simone de Beauvoir (Amy K. Harmon), and Picassos mistress Dora Maar (Melissa Powell) scramble to set up while they wait for the master. Besides their own petty but hilarious squabbles, they also have to deal with a Nazi (Joseph L. Roberts) who keeps popping up, as well as the leader of the resistance, Sam Beckett (Dan Gordon). Jettes direction keeps all the moving parts well synchronized as the actors enter and exit Juliana de Abreus well-designed, multi-door set. The ensemble is strong overall, though Bakers over-the-top bombastic caricature of Sartre and Bulgers sincerity as the put-upon host stand out. And while the work isnt historically accurate, it succeeds because, as Camus says, sometimes happiness feels better than truth. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru July 24. (213) 290-2782, BrimmerStreet.org
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: June 12. Continues through July 24, 2010
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