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Fringe Festival : Stage Reviews : 'Connecticut'

September 24, 1987|RAY LOYND

The world premiere of two one-acts by playwright John Ford Noonan at Stage Lee Strasberg is a feather in the Fringe Festival cap. Under the umbrella title of "Recent Developments in Southern Connecticut," the two-character dramas are touched with tenderness, brushed with comedy and ennobled by the specter of loss.

The curtain-raiser, "Waiting for the Word," is about strangers who meet in the lounge of a hospital while awaiting the life-or-death word on the condition of their children. The second play, "When It Comes Early and You've Still Got Most of Your Hair," dramatizes the pondside outing of a devoted married couple coping with the imminent helplessness of the husband.

The material isn't grim. Noonan has written unsentimental love stories that, under the direction of Barry Michlin and precise acting, come to us like baskets of flowers.

The portrayal of the struggling, older married couple by Edith Fields and Philip Baker Hall (who played Richard Nixon in "Secret Honor" a few years back) is seamless. The actors render a quirky human landscape beautiful both for its bolts of humor and its pathos.

In the opener, as agonizing strangers fending off dire word from emergency operating rooms, performers Kerry Shear and Chip Lucia wrest fresh life from a conventional formula. Their gingerly moves to comfort each other ring with the slap of awkward credulity. (But why is this man in a Connecticut waiting room reading a copy of the Los Angeles Times? . . . )

Performances at 7936 Santa Monica Blvd. run Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m., Saturdays, 5 and 9 p.m., through Oct. 25. Tickets: $8-$10. (213) 466-1767 .

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