"Streamers" overturned the World War II lifeboat cliche, in which GIs from different backgrounds learn to work together for the common cause. The differences among the soldiers in "Streamers" lead to intensified bigotry and irrational violence--a preview of the nasty little war into which the characters will soon be thrown.
David Grant's staging at the Fig Tree Theatre goes to the heart of David Rabe's play. Each of the four principals--Jeffrey Joseph, Todd Robinson, Clyde Jones and Mitchell Anderson--is utterly convincing as someone who feels lost and alone, despite superficial alliances with each other. Robert Costanzo and William Bronder are just as good as the older grunts who are the play's two genuine comrades. The violence isn't as graphic as in other productions, but Grant's approach makes up in thoughtfulness what it lacks in shock value.
The Fig Tree lends itself well to the play's feelings of confinement. Thomas Buderwitz's barracks set, lit by Kim C. Davis, is a perfectly polished prison.
Performances of this Ocean Front Studio production are at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m., through April 6, (213) 207-8158.
'IN SIGHT OF ANGELS'
Within the confidentiality of a confessional booth, a man repeatedly claims to be molesting his own 6-year-old daughter--what's the young priest supposed to do?
It's a combustible situation, and Jonathan Daly strikes a few matches in the first part of his "In Sight of Angels," at the Stable. But the fire never sizzles, because Daly quenches the flames at crucial moments in his narrative.
For example, he doesn't show us the actual confessions. What's worse, his denouement is confusing and unbelievable, trivializing everything that has gone before it. At the end, when the priest flashes his thumb up as the Notre Dame fight song plays in the background, it's as if we've watched a football game instead of a play about such sensitive subjects.
Clete Keith is a charmer as the priest, and he's well supported by J. Thomas Quinn, Dorothy Keith, James LaZelle and, at the performance I saw, Evon Cerda (who alternates with Rebecca Russell).
A. Clark Duncan's set is nicely atmospheric. Let's hope they're all still available after Daly rewrites his play.
Performances are at 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m., (213) 462-9954.
'84, CHARING CROSS'
The British tourist office might well have produced "84, Charing Cross Road," at the Broadway Playhouse.
This dramatization of Helene Hanff's book, by James Roose-Evans, traces the correspondence between a New York writer and the employees of a London book shop, between 1949 and 1971.
At first the letters are all about books. But gradually the hands-across-the-sea gestures of the American erode the British reserve, and they all become pen pals.
The characters are cute, but shallow, and there isn't a whiff of conflict. The New Yorker constantly postpones her trip to visit her English friends, yet her reasons aren't questioned. Moral of the story: See England now--before someone dies.
Fred Vaugeois has assembled a capable cast. As the Santa-like manager of the book shop, Scott Martin occasionally suggests something going on beneath the surface. Caroline Park doesn't do as well with the American, perhaps because she was still polishing her lines as of last Friday.
The set is only halfway there. One of the book shop desks looks as if it's made of cardboard, and when the writer moves to a better apartment, the set hardly changes. The sound track misfires too; a theme from Dvorak's "New World" Symphony is used to conjure up thoughts of dear old England.
Performances are at 550 W. Broadway, San Gabriel, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through April 15, (818) 282-5462.
AN IRISH EVENING
St. Patrick's Day celebrants can safely ignore "An Irish Evening," three one-acts presented by the Fly by Nite Players at the Nightflight Theatre.
The first two plays, "Pound on Demand" and "Bedtime Story," are distended comic sketches by Sean O'Casey. They require a light touch that's beyond director Conrad Dunn.
"Bedtime," in particular, suffers from a busy leading performance by Jonathan Neale that may be a reaction to Dunn's dilatory pacing. It's also too murkily lit by Tom Sheppard. The Fly by Nite Players take the "Nite" in their name more seriously than the "Fly."
The stage is so dark during the final play, Neil McKenzie's "Guests of the Nation," that occasionally it's as if we're listening to the radio. However, the gloom is more appropriate in this one, for it's a sad story of two British soldiers whose budding friendship with their IRA captors is brought to an abrupt end. The deep shadows help hide the stiffness of Dunn's staging.
Performances are at 226 N. Golden Mall, Burbank, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. through March 29, with a special performance on St. Patrick's Day, (818) 848-2469.