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The Anatomy of Gazellas

Pregnant, suicidal teenager Alex (Elia Saldana) flees an abusive junkie mother and goes in search of her grandmother, a woman she believes to be a powerful shaman. Along the way Alex is assisted by a pair of funky spirit guides who take the shape of feisty, tough-talking grifters: Hopey (Elizabeth Francis) and Maggie (Bianca Lemaire). Alex also holes up at a halfway house for young, ex-con women, run by evangelical leader Dona Lydia (Cristina Frias), whose preaching and strict rules clash with Alex's more prosaic beliefs. A creative loner, Alex sketches gazellas -- half female, half gazelle creatures -- and wears wire horns to honor her "tribe." Janine Salinas Schoenberg's all-female, one-act drama trains its empathetic focus on the lost young women on the fringes of society, but with one hoof in a fantasy realm and the other planted in a harsh world, the parallel stories never quite jell. The assembled characters -- gang girls, street toughs and psychos -- captivate our attention despite some exaggerated performances. Saldana is good as the autistic-savant protagonist. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera stages the action well, employing surreal touches such as projected animation and water imagery to good effect, while Mylette Nora's costumes perfectly complement the characterizations. Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 19. (323) 644-1929, brownpapertickets.com/event/365475.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 27. Continues through May 19, 2013

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Atwater Village Theatre

3269 Casitas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039


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