'The Rainbow Room" at Theater of Arts dramatizes one of the few singles scenes that hasn't been milked to death: a gay women's bar. Otherwise, to the credit of playwright Lenore Carlson and director Lenore Willard, the slice-of-life in this neighborhood saloon might be unfolding in a gay male bar or a straight bar--or wherever you find jealousy, intrigue, obsession, deception.
Despite a loose, ponderous first act and a pat, predictable conclusion, the production is generally earmarked by credible dialogue and flavorful acting. On a social level, the value of a play like "The Rainbow Room" is that it breaks down fences between the lesbian world and everyone else's world.
The piece is devoid of exploitation and free of didactic, whiny writing. The hothouse atmosphere is a bit ragged (complementing John Sowle's soiled barroom set), and the sexual tensions suggest a viper's nest. But decorum, coiled as it is, prevails. There's not a lesbian Nazi in the group. The resident heavy drinker is captured entirely in actress Jill Atkins' glazed eyes (an uncanny boozy image). The play's obligatory mean-spirited character is a curdled portrait thanks to Sandra Djohn's evocative, metallic bitterness. And a tall elitist's nervous gleam (from the only character to discuss anything besides herself) is leanly fashioned by Sally Smith.
Performances at 4128 Wilshire Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 5 p.m., through Oct. 18. Tickets: $10-$12. (213) 380-0511.