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'Les Liaisons' Plods Along in a Lush Environment

January 23, 1991|T. H. McCULLOH

A classy framework surrounds La Mirada Theatre's production of Christopher Hampton's adaptation of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," in Joanne Trunick McMaster's scenic design, Donna Barrier's costumes and Raun Yankovich's lighting. They lusciously recreate the period and the ultra-genteel patina of this exploration of an early skirmish in the war between men and women.

The class is not followed through in the rest of the production. Although there are some good performances, in particular Richard Cox's Valmont--his charm and subtle sense of humor doubled with a rewarding earthiness give the role distinction--the company can barely keep plodding along through the thick mud of Scott Rogers' direction. The valiant efforts of Francia DiMase as Tourvel, Jane A. Johnston as Mme. Rosemond and Julie Silverman as a buoyant Emilie, are all but lost in the struggle to keep going.

The production features television personality Donna Mills as Valmont's nemesis, the Marquise, but her projection rarely reaches her microphone. And when she can be heard, her line readings are flat and empty of significance.

"Les Liaisons Dangereuses," La Mirada Theatre, 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada; Tuesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays & Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Ends Jan . 27. $20-$24; (213) 944-6310. Running time: 2 hours , 45 minutes.

'Distant Relations' Presents Problems

Under the umbrella title "Distant Relations," Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood has two one-acts with distinct problems.

The opener, GlennAlan Packman's "The Great American Breakdown," suffers only from not saying anything new about its subject, the effects of a divorce on grown children. In this case they all seem to have their own lives to live and are a cheery bunch, so one wonders why Packman wrote the play. He's a talented writer looking for something to say, it appears. His play is given its best shot in the performances and Gloria McCord's direction, and Jack Moore stands out as the older blue-collar brother who has found his own solution to the problem.

Writer-director Leon Martell's "Feed Them Dogs" is a play that harks back to early Sam Shepard, a sort of plotless few minutes with a lowdown family of caricatured grotesques. Martell's cartoon direction doesn't help, but Cheryl Slean and Brandon Hooper, as libidinous cousins, at least give the effort some of the naturalism that could have pulled the play's style into the present. "Distant Relations," Theatre of NOTE, 1705 N. Kenmore Ave., Hollywood; Fridays & Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Feb . 14. $10; (213) 666-5550.

'Fractured Tao' Tells Too Much

Dan Kwong's performance piece "Tales From the Fractured Tao With Master Nice Guy," at Highways in Santa Monica, is an involved, overproduced effort that boils down to a lengthy description of the effect Kwong's parents' divorce had on him when he was in grade school.

The divorce created some behavior that was rather silly and erratic, even for a child with Kwong's lively imagination, including a plea to a sort of hip spirit guide called Master Nice Guy. Even with the help of a Thomas Guide, Master Nice Guy never arrives.

Kwong re-enacts in detail his problems using the school boys' room, with its open stalls and slick toilet paper. He finally smuggled himself into the auditorium rest room, which was properly appointed, after which he took off all his clothes and danced with abandon around the auditorium stage. It wasn't the last time he did it, either, and it's really more than we want to know about all that. Even performance art needs shape and form, style and content.

"Tales From the Fractured Tao," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fridays-Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Ends Jan . 27. $10; (213) 453-1755. Running time: 80 minutes .

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