Some plays look like TV. Others imitate the movies. "Slow Love," at the Harman Avenue Theater, resembles nothing so much as that landmark French film, "Last Year at Marienbad."
Australian playwright Richard Murphet acknowledges his debt to Alain Robbe-Grillet, who wrote "Last Year." Both writers broke up their narratives into tiny pieces and mixed up the chronology. The "Slow Love" story, about sexual liaisons and jealousies between four young people in two adjoining hotel rooms and balconies, is splintered into 179 scenes or tableaux , which together last less than two hours.
The sequence of events is dismantled and put back together as it might be dreamed, with some moments repeated over and over and others thrusting themselves into view ahead of schedule. The actors seldom speak; their body language is what counts (here, perhaps, is Artaud's influence, also credited in the press release about Murphet).
Nevertheless, the theater is hardly silent. Fragments of romantic music, of widely varied styles, accompany the action. And when the music isn't playing, we hear voice-overs of what the actors might otherwise be saying. Or occasionally we hear other exchanges of dialogue, such as badly re-enacted scenes from "Dallas."
Apparently the sound track is supposed to be a counterpoint to what's happening on stage. In the program, Murphet writes: "It is this dominant emotional difference between the inchoate mass of life and how art portrays it that 'Slow Love' wishes to challenge."
Yet the activity on stage hardly resembles most people's idea of "the inchoate mass of life." The cast is attractive enough, and their affairs titillating enough, that they might well be re-enacting a romance novel, albeit in slow motion.
In the end, the experiment isn't much more profound than a romance novel--and the repetitions become enervating rather than entrancing. One can't help but notice that "Last Year at Marienbad," the talk of 1961, hasn't been as influential as critics predicted at the time.
Clara Sturak's staging remains precise even when it's no longer alluring. Credit actors/models Patrick Barrett, Gretchen Krieger, Nicholas Perugini and Sasha Stone, as well as the complex sound and lighting design by Michael P. Tak and Sharon Rosen, respectively.
Performances are at 522 N. La Brea Ave., Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., through Sept. 14. Tickets: $12; (213) 281-8459.
'RUM AND COKE'
In the two years since South Coast Repertory produced "Rum and Coke," events have made this drama about a young man caught up in the Bay of Pigs even more timely. But Keith Reddin hasn't made his play, revived by the West Coast Ensemble, more graceful.
The parallel between the Bay of Pigs and Nicaragua is obvious. But Reddin's point of view is not. Are such foreign adventures completely ill-advised? Or are they good ideas, badly executed? Reddin's Cuban rebel is his most sympathetic character, and if he had the sort of support Reagan proposes for the contras . . . ).
The mixed signals might not matter in a more thoughtful play. But Reddin's naive protagonist, a junior-level CIA propaganda expert (Peter Trencher), is involved in so much action that there isn't much time to think.
He faces Nixon's mobs in Caracas, and later calls Nixon to ask for advice. He's there as the CIA plots to embarrass and then kill Castro--even though his job doesn't require him to know such details. He helps train the Bay of Pigs rebels--and later is arrested for unsuccessfully trying to blow the operation's cover.
The other characters--his sister the cynical reporter (Nancy Hinman), his bosses the bad guys--are also out of a TV miniseries. His valiant Cuban comrade (Pablo Marz) is caught by Castro himself (Gregory Littman).
Perhaps "Rum and Coke" is supposed to have a stylized, satiric edge? All I know is that Avner Garbi's staging takes it all quite literally and seriously.
Within this context, the acting is generally capable. The split levels of Ray Finnell's otherwise simple set occasionally become unwieldy, but Cathy Cooper's costumes and Leonora Schildkraut's sound track are in tune with the period.
Performances are at 6240 Hollywood Blvd., Thursdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., through Aug. 30. Tickets: $10; (213) 871-1052.
"The Loser" isn't much more than an illustrated stand-up routine about a shmo who changes his identity in order to attract a woman. He learns--no surprise here--that he's better off trying to develop his own self-esteem.
Larry Coven delivers Stan Jones' one-liners with a comic flair that owes just about everything to the young Woody Allen. The most notable of the supporting players, who drift in and out of Coven's reveries, is 10-year-old Joshua Waggoner.
The show begins to run out of steam a few minutes before it ends; fortunately, it ends in little more than an hour. Daniel Rojo directed, for Alliance Repertory Company.