Peter Larney and Peter James Smith in Land Line
Peter Larney and Peter James Smith in Land Line
Photo: Kevin Riggin

In Denial That You're Going to Die? Here's a Play For You (or Maybe Not)

Anybody who's ever experienced the death of a loved one from a wasting illness, or who wishes to luxuriate in denying that we'll all be in those shoes soon enough, thank you very much, may well wonder what the point might be in even director William Charlton's able staging of something so downbeat as terminal astrocytoma.

To its credit, Land Line, playwright Stephen Dierkes' rigorously unsentimental if somewhat clinical new play about death and dying, never pretends to be about anything else. In fact, it is as accurate a dramatic representation of the five-stage Kübler-Ross model of grief as one could hope for.

Peter James Smith (in an affecting and technically accomplished performance) plays the doomed Terry, a flippantly petulant, middle-aged gay man whose illness has forced him to move back into the Michigan basement of his mother and stepfather (the fine Katherine Cortez and John Dennis Johnston). Peter Larney is the guilt-ridden best friend whose daily phone calls effectively chart the grim emotional trajectory of Terry's inexorable slide.

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Speakeasy at Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village; through July 20. (323) 644-1929, ensemblestudiotheatrela.org.

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