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STAGE REVIEW : A Coherent Line Unites a Trio of One-Acts

December 25, 1987|RAY LOYND

A trio of one-acts under way at the Cast is notable for a coherence seldom found in an evening of short plays. Playwright Clifton Campbell's "The Figure and Other Short Works" is so focused that you are unaware the performers are working on the set of another play, "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," also at the Cast.

The production is marked by a clean vocal line that quietly unites all three plays in terms of tone and converging themes, however disparate the stories themselves.

The shorter opening pair deal with a daughter revealing an uncomfortable truth to her father ("Fer de Lance"), and a screenwriter enduring fatuous criticism from his producer ("The Hour Business"). The longer, post-intermission piece draws two cynical Florida detectives into the maze of a murder investigation centered on a pair of teen-agers present at the discovery of a headless and handless corpse ("The Figure"). Each play ultimately deals with the question of personal identity. Revelations and personalities are deliciously peeled away like onion skin (as in the case of the two youths in "The Figure"), or burst forth (the daughter in "Fer de Lance"), or are comically, inadvertently exposed (the Hollywood producer in "The Hour Business").

The unities of the production derive additionally from a single directorial hand (Gina Wendkos) calibrating the same four actors. (As a plus, Wendkos worked previously with three of the actors at the Odyssey.)

The result is an easeful sense of dramatic control. The acting shifts are chameleonic, but there's no sense of quick-changing artists.

The lone actress is the distinctive Yeardley Smith with the squeaky voice (she played the nerdish plump outcast in Wendkos' "Boys & Girls/Men & Women" at the Odyssey and here she's a discontented daughter and an earthy swamp tramp). The other cast members, all estimable, are John M. Jackson (cop, screenwriter, uncomprehending father), Dana Gladstone (a non-caricatured, non-creative producer) and Noah Blake (jeans-clad teen roustabout).

Performances are at 800 El Centro Ave., Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m., through Jan. 27. Tickets: $8. (213) 462-0265.

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