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Stage Reviews : 'Wayside Motor Inn'

July 04, 1986|RAY LOYND

Playwright A. R. Gurney's technique in exploring 10 characters at a wayside in their lives is initially arresting: We see them in simultaneity, inhabiting the same motel room outside Boston. Of course, they don't inhabit the same room in reality, so we hear a lot of overlapping dialogue.

The production at the 21st Street Theater features generally well-etched performances, direction (by Gary Gardner) that deftly negotiates the necessary tricky staging and competent if rather washed-out set and lighting values.

The problem with the play is that once the fetching staging device has exhausted your interest--say, early in the second act--the play falls into a conventional pattern of only moderately gripping dramas. That makes it a wonderful test for the actors, however.

None here is weak and some turn ordinary dilemmas into solid craft: notably Sam O'Neal as a decently tacky husband looking for a one-night stand (a performance so truthfully forlorn you may overlook it altogether) and Carl Walsh as another burned-out case divorcing his wife. (A disconcerting miscue here is Walsh's stage wife, who is--ahem--too much older than he to make it a believable marriage.)

A father brought to terms by his son and a waitress with an undemanding yen are other convincing portrayals by, respectively, Greg Norbnerg and Kirsten Vance. One actor, Richard Cansino, unfurls terrific physical urgency but is saddled with the comparatively dumb role of a college kid seeking sexual fulfillment.

Performances at 11350 Palms Blvd., West Los Angeles, at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 7:30 p.m. Sundays, through July 27; (213) 827-5655.

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