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STAGE REVIEW : 'Treasure Hunt' Balances Drama, Farce

January 23, 1991|T. H. McCULLOH

Where does reality end and art begin? Or, to put a finer point on it, can reality merge with art--and, if so, can it ever be sorted out? That's the question posed by Jean Colonomos's dramatic farce "Treasure Hunt" at the Callboard Theatre in West Hollywood.

Jessica is a playwright who seems to run through directors, but has held on to David, who guided the production of her first play. Her attachment is personal, not professional. Now David has flown the coop, leaving a large hole in Jessica's tight, insecure world. The second and more devastating blow to Jessica's peace of mind is the loss of her dear friend Vera, a talented and successful sculptor. To top everything off, Jessica can't find the right ending for her current play, an effort in which she's trying to purge the ghosts of her torment.

"Treasure Hunt" is a personal play and Colonomos digs inside Jessica's mind to stalk her confusion and torment. But "Treasure Hunt" is far from the dour shadowy piece a thumbnail sketch of its plot conjures. While Jessica is suffering and ignoring her associates's advice to pack it up and move on, her troubles are contrasted with the uncaring and farcical stream of reality that always seems to intrude on one's comfortable self-pity. Life tries to make us laugh even when we're dead set against it.

It's a very funny play at the bottom line--funny and honest, and if the knot Colonomos ties it all up with seems a bit contrived, that's OK. It's the kind of knot Jessica can understand and accept.

The script creates a difficult balance between drama and farce, and director Jules Aaron keeps that balance delicately in place. He also has a company that understands the control that balance requires. Lynn Milgrim's Jessica never once lets the silliness of the reality around her enter her perception--Milgrim keeps her centered in her own crumbling world.

Around her, life bubbles on hilariously as the two leads in her new play arrive late for a rehearsal shattered by a freak taxi accident. During auditions for their replacements Jessica even blocks out the sendups of dedicated actors trying to claw their way into a show. She's a stubborn one, this Jessica, until Colonomos' deus ex machina finally convinces her to leave the past where it is.

Doubling in most cases, the expert company of farceurs that surround Jessica and happily maintain a control that keeps them real includes Jodi Carlisle, Charles Dougherty, Susan Harney, Judith Heineman, Gregg Ostrin, Tony Rizzoli and Laura Wernette. They cavort on a simple setting by John Iacovelli, which couldn't be more workable for the piece--especially under the subtle highlighting of Michael Gilliam's design.

"Treasure Hunt," Callboard Theatre, 8451 Melrose Place, West Hollywood; Thursdays-Saturdays,8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Ends March 3. $20; (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour , 30 minutes.

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