Ernest Hemingway remains an icon in American literature and culture — at least as famous for his machismo exploits and brash lifestyle as for his prize-winning novels and short stories. In his youth his talent made him a star, but his death from a self-inflicted shotgun wound at age 61 followed decades marred by mental problems, alcoholism and chronic physical pain. Directed by T.J. Castronovo, John F. Goff's rendering of playwright Yabo Yablonsky solo biopic draws an astute portrait of this complex and troubled figure. As he downs the bottle of rum successfully hidden from his wife, Goff's maverick-in-decline ruminates on personal matters that include his aging body, his talents (or lack thereof) as a lover, and his fading memory, exacerbated by his recent subjection to shock therapy as a cure for his depression. His musings also extend back to his life in Europe; at one point he talks about the anti-Semitism of the French and, more subtly, the British. In describing his experiences of war, he tells how he reveled in wielding a gun until the shame of targeting another person with death was brought home to him. Throughout, the personality on display at intervals reveals the boy inside the man; other times, he pontificates, only to draw back with self-disparaging reference to the bullshit machine responsible for his ubiquitous public image. Designers Jeff Rack's tasteful set and Ana Castronovo's costuming aptly complement this skillful performance. Working Stage Theater, 1516 N. Gardner St, Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Oct. 9, (323) 960-7784,

Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: Sept. 9. Continues through Oct. 9, 2011

LA Weekly