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Stage Beat

'Love Mad' at Cast; 'Toward Perestroika!' by Group Repertory Theatre; 'Metamorphosis" at Kafe Kafka; Two One-Acts at the Flight Theatre

June 30, 1989|RAY LOYND

"Love Mad" at the Cast Theatre is a brittle, new comedy that's vicious about relationships.

Playwright Tim Boland, director Kent Minault, and a bright five-member cast create a romantic nightmare in which the men are affable jerks and the women fools.

The plot and prickly tone are best summed up when Trevor, the play's frustrated, cynical bachelor (a riotous Richard Arnold), wails that one of his buddies is eloping and another is getting divorced. For Trevor, "the G-spot is the Bermuda Triangle."

Well, nobody said relationships were easy. The play is really a yuppie answer (none of these guys worry about money) to David Mamet's "Sexual Perversity in Chicago." The staging is swift and polished, the male ego prominent and repulsively funny.

To balance things out, the two female characterizations are not exactly role models. One (thundering Cedering Fox in bulky, ugly clothes) is an insufferably arrogant shark; the other (winsome Taylor Gilbert) is a sweet, loyal fool.

Unlike the men, they lack charm, and playwright Boland has given the best lines to the male dolts and cads. No woman could have written this play, and that's its flaw.

The subject may be done to death, but "Love Mad" has insights that seem fresh. Take bachelor Trevor. His first wife left him because he didn't play around; she couldn't stand his fidelity. Since then his longest relationship has been over the phone with an obscene caller.

Spencer (a solid portrayal by Jonathan Zeichner) is paralyzed by marital commitment, fleeing from his honeymoon. Besides, he's horrified by this childhood memory of the dead eyes of middle-aged husbands out mowing their lawns.

The third male character is the wimpy and more pale Michael (Jerry Hauck), who tolerates his wife's bisexuality because he's tired of being "part of a constant romantic exodus."

Production values are smooth.

At 804 N. El Centro Ave., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m., through July 30. Tickets: $12-$15; (213) 462-0265.

'Toward Perestroika!'

Set in 1967 Czechoslovakia in the exciting, liberal months before democratic reforms under Alexander Dubcek were crushed, the ambitious political drama "Toward Perestroika!" shudders with a timeliness playwright Robert Ellis could not have anticipated.

Just as fascinating is the setting--the rebuilt village of Lidice, which became one of World War II's most powerful symbols of wanton massacre after the Nazis leveled it in 1942 in arbitrary retaliation for the assassination of an SS commander. Events in this play echo Tian An Men Square.

The Group Repertory Theatre and director Lonny Chapman, however, have reached far beyond their grasp. This is evident in the dense, over-plotted political and even romantic convolutions, in the creaky device of an on-stage narrator who introduces and frames each scene as if talking from a primer, and in the austere, marblelike surfaces of the set design.

Ironically, this writer had visited Lidice and worked in Prague (where Act II unfolds) during the period covered by the play. This raised the level of anticipation. The hope was to sense the rush of events in the air of Prague and the lingering calm of pastoral Lidice and its memorial rose garden.

It was too much to ask.

The photographs in the lobby and two huge color projections on each side of the stage bring back Lidice. The production does not. It is stiffly staged, ponderous and clunky. The acting, though, is a strong compensation. Events are awhirl with zealous revisionists and corrupt Communists.

Cosmo Canale's magnetic Russian colonel, Arlan Boggs' zealous young engineer, Rachelle Carson's vital blonde Czech survivor, and Mearl Allen's comatose wheelchair-bound general are standouts in the 14-member cast. Carson even manages to pull off a couple of fervid speeches with preachy grandeur--no easy feat.

At 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood, dark this weekend . Thereafter Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5 p.m., through Aug. 5. Tickets: $8-$12; (818) 769-PLAY.

'Metamorphosis'

What is it about Prague?

We're back in Wenceslas Square again, this time dining on Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" at Kafe Kafka after finishing off his favorite dish of Bohemian cabbage and chicken Maria Teresa.

Producer and chef Kristian Von Ritzhoff, who operates Kafe Kafka in a cozy niche in Hollywood, is a gourmet showman, delivering you a play and the artist's favorite entree to boot. Von Ritzhoff researched the culinary details by checking out a Kafka relative in Prague.

Who's to argue? This is high-concept stuff. The show itself is a serious, darkly witty, expressionistic production, albeit belabored and stylistically repetitious over its excessive, near two-hour running time. Actors in the tight, 24-seat patio restaurant perform nearly on top of your table.

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