The formula for a classic country song is simple: Hard-livin', hard-lovin' man, born with a rambler's soul and a soft spot for whiskey and women, leaves his long-suffering lady because he knows he's no good for her. Playwright Daniel Dean Darst was a studio music writer in Nashville, so he's built his semi-autobiographical, world-premiere show on that premise. When he steps onstage as Mike, Stetson shadowing his sunglass-shaded eyes, weaving stories in a slow, low voice reminiscent of the voice of God (if God once had a pack-a-day Marlboro habit) and singing songs that blanket the audience in a haze of longing, you lean forward to breathe in every word he sighs out. But when he passes the stage on to the past, and a younger version of himself, it's a rude awakening from the sweet, sad nostalgia he's conjured. As Young Mike, Paul Teodo still has Darst's poetic words to speak, but not his gift of storytelling. Bryan Bellomo, who plays persnickety to perfection (he uses an oil rag to answer the phone in the garage in which the two men work), is more nuanced eating a doughnut in semi-darkness than Teodo is in a monologue venting his frustration to his deceased father. In Act 2, set designers Jade and Patricia Altman impress with a 1960s diner that's faithful down to its handwritten chalkboard menu (the plastic Coke bottle spied behind the counter the lone errancy), and Darst's reappearance draws relief. Too bad it's momentary. Go, but be prepared to leave wanting more of him, not of this particular production. Michael Altman directs. Theatre 68, 5419 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun, 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 23. (323) 501-0511.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 3. Continues through Jan. 23, 2010
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