As part of this theater’s new program to launch more original works, writer-director Alex Carver’s comedy – spun from a true story and set in Venice, California – follows a nebbishy 30-year-old writer named Aaron (Boomie Aglietti) through his romance with a 23-year-old Yoga-practitioner named Suzanne (Danielle Hartnett). She’s a student of gender studies, well versed in Lysistrata, and the conflict in women between power gained by the use of their bodies and that gained by the use of their intellects – a dichotomy this play handily straddles. While dining at the Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood, Aaron struck up a conversation with gorgeous, vivacious Suzanne, who slipped him her phone number before peeling away down Sunset. To call or not to call? That is the question which Aaron resolves with the help of his entertainment lawyer friend from high school, Derrick (Dion Lack). Faster than you can say “manipulation,” Suzanne has moved in “just for a week,” has crowded her mesmerized victim’s apartment with her possessions, and has transformed his clothing style from argyle sweaters to Metallica t-shirts. All the while, vegetarian Suzanne forbids Aaron his hot dogs, and plays a coy game of giving him massages and lessons in posture, of talking forthrightly about sex while keeping the deed in abeyance – despite her sleeping in the nude, with Aaron, in his bed. Through all this, she may or may not be breaking off with her insanely jealous and generally insane poet fiancé (Rodrigo Robles). This is all a familiar and eternal dramatic idea that flares from the nuances of Suzanne's behaviors – on whether she's a female Tartuffe or merely a Lolita, and Hartnett’s performance captivatingly dances along that tightrope. Unfortunately, she has no foil in Aaron, whose dominant quality is shell shock, and whose best efforts to bed Suzanne get interrupted by a phone call at every moment she appears to yield to his desire. This perpetual coitus interuptus is as strained – even in a romantic comedy – as the unlikely detail that, in 2008, a 30-year-old scribe would be typing his stories and plays on old manual typewriter. Aglietti's affable personality requires him to push back at some point. Here, he surrenders in every skirmish. Carver's staging is nicely timed for the most part, with strong cameos from Kelly Lett, as Aaron's raging neighbor, and Elizabeth Southard, playing Suzanne's English mum. UNKNOWN THEATER, 1110 Sewart St., Hlywd. (Steven Leigh Morris)
Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 3, 9 p.m.; Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: Jan. 10. Continues through Feb. 24, 2008
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