With characters who "feel like the fix is in" and talk about "grift," Eric Rudnick's play Day Trader at the Bootleg Theater clearly aims for a noir sensibility in his play about a failed Hollywood writer who both takes to trading stocks and hatches a larger scheme to convince his wealthy wife to divorce him.
Ron (Danton Stone) shares the plan with his good friend Phil (Tim Meinelschmidt), also a struggling writer, and soon involves Bridget (Murielle Zuker), a cocktail waitress and theater major with whom he becomes infatuated. Apart from his wife Brenda, who remains offstage but sends Ron missives filled with Shakespeare quotes, the other family member who becomes enmeshed in his scheme is Ron's daughter Juliana (Brighid Fleming).
While the piece has some laughs and an interesting premise, Rudnick's pacing and execution of the plot twists and director Steven Williford's staging choices leave it lingering somewhere between modern realism and stylized noir. Zuker and Meinelschmidt sell their characters, and Fleming (who has been excellent elsewhere) has convincing moments of disaffected adolescence, but Stone's performance is less compelling, as he often drops eye contact with cast mates and doesn't pick up cues crisply.
Where the show does succeed is in its design, namely Stephen Gifford's cleverly modular set, Jared A. Sayeg's kinetic lighting and Adam Flemming's vivid projections.
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Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru February 16. (213) 389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org
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