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Beware of couples who ask you 
and your
spouse over for dinner — especially if you suspect you may turn out to
be the main course. Amer­icans have never been able to respond to
social invitations from work colleagues with quite the same innocence
they displayed before Edward Albee’s George and Martha hosted an
evening whose pastimes included Get the Guests and Hump the Hostess.
The British have only kept the party threat advisory at orange with
Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party
and Alan Ayckbourne’s Absurd Person Singular
— comic nightmares about what happens when people with few ambitions have too many drinks.

Playwright David Gieselmann is German but feels no need to bring order to the fondue table. His 70-minute play, Mr. Kolpert
, running at the Odyssey Theater, is an
expressionist meltdown that begins with civilized banter and ends with
mute, primal apocalypse. Ralf and Sarah (Kenneth Alan Williams and Amy
Farrington) are an unmarried couple living together; bored by life,
they’ve embarked on a search for catharsis to jump-start their
emotions. Taking a cue from the Leopold and Loeb–like characters of
Patrick Hamilton’s Rope, they murder an office colleague of
Sarah’s and hide him in a steamer trunk. But perhaps they haven’t. We
aren’t really certain — not even guests Edith and Bastian (Jen Dede and
Thomas Vincent Kelly), who arrive for drinks and abuse, know for sure,
although their hosts continually taunt them with the murder claim — and
the trunk that ostentatiously sits in the middle of their apartment.

For
a while it doesn’t seem to matter, since Edith and Bastian have their
own problems. He’s a teetotaling architect so prickly that he almost
beats up Ralf when the host offers him liquor. Nor is Bastian much
impressed with Ralf’s erudite chatter about chaos theory or with
Sarah’s claim that mousy Edith had an affair with Mr. Kolpert — the man
supposedly in the trunk. Adding insulin to injury, the diabetic Bastian
must inject himself in front of everyone.Mr. Kolpert is familiar stuff to students of black
comedy, and to Joe Orton admirers in particular. Language doesn’t
merely fail, it plays tricks on its speakers; an unhelpful outsider
appears in the figure of a hapless pizza deliveryman (Brad C. Light)
and characters lose control of the situation when confronted with death
— not as the ruffian on the stairs, but as a heavy, bloody corpse.

“All
research is research into order,” Ralf explains to the frowning
Bastian. “Chaos researchers ask, ‘What if there is no order?’ ”

The
cardinal sin, in other words, is not murder but the hubris of trying to
make order out of chaos — or is it trying to create chaos where order
exists? Director Scott Cummins has fun with David Tushingham’s
translation, but knows when to pull back and allow the evening’s final,
bloody tableau to speak for itself. The cast goes all out (including
several members who will appear fully nude); Farrington in particular
excels at the physical comedy, although I don’t know why Williams
speaks with a British accent.

If there’s a problem, as far as
Gieselmann is concerned, it’s that he’s a formalist playwright
attempting to apply an intellectual veneer over what is essentially a
food fight. Still, he never pushes the theory too hard, and so we
should shun that favorite theater-party game, Punch the Playwright.

 

MR. KOLPERT
| By DAVID GIESELMANN | At Odyssey Theater Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A. | Thru March 19 | (310) 477-2055

LA Weekly