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Vince Melocchi's new play features nine men and a woman decaying slowly in a private watering hole during a major economic slump -- this major economic slump. Set during the 2007-2008 football season, Melocchi's story centers on John Waite (Matt McKenzie), an unemployed metalworker whose desire to see the Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl supplants all other priorities in his life. As his immutable pride keeps him from opportunity, he grows sour and angry, providing a textured and nuanced transformation that McKenzie performs poetically, even at explosive heights of cursing and fighting. The rest of the denizens seem to spiral around him, perhaps sinking into his black hole of self-worth. Director Guillermo Cienfuegos allows us to spend time with each of the hopeless, revealing the play's pith and brutality with a sensitive hand. But this tends to expose the play's relatively minor weaknesses: the conveniently contrived exits and entrances, the shapelessness of some of the relationships -- especially considering the large cast and clumsy dialogue that sometimes spills awkwardly into scenes. The strong ensemble, though, piles through these uneven aspects to deliver an all-around touching portrait of Middle America, a reminder that "real Americans" need not be so reductively characterized as simply Joe the Plumber. Pacific Resident Theater, 705 1/2 Venice Blvd., Venice; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through March 29. (310) 822-8392.
Sun., Dec. 7; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 p.m. Starts: Dec. 7. Continues through May 2, 2008


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