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THEATER : SCR's Provocative 'Moonshadow'

May 23, 1991|DON SHIRLEY | Don Shirley covers theater for The Times.

What is a citizen's duty? What is a parent's? What justifies the killing and the dying that accompany war? Who decides? In the wake of the relatively brief but increasingly complicated Gulf War, these age-old questions seem freshly minted.

They are addressed with frightening urgency and anger in "Moonshadow," a play by Richard Hellesen that continues at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa through June 2.

The play, structurally simple and marked by sudden explosions of emotion from its normally taciturn Midwestern characters, takes place on July 20, 1969: Neil Armstrong is about to land on the bright side of the moon. Meanwhile, Mark is bound for Vietnam and feels as though he is about to land on the dark side.

The production, directed by Martin Benson, features John K. Linton as Mark and Richard Doyle and Robin Groves as his father and mother, who urge him to flee to Canada. The cast also includes Clare Carey as Mark's girlfriend, and Russell Keating and David Marsala alternating as Mark's 13-year-old brother, Jeff (who, obsessed with watching the moon landing, is convinced that a world that managed to put a man on the moon will not let his brother die). The adult performances are in perfect pitch; Marsala, playing Jeff on opening night, was a bit stiff.

However, every character has his or her say--articulately, without falling into speechifying. Despite a minor expository problem near the end, Hellesen's play is stirring and provocative.

What: "Moonshadow."

When: Tuesdays through Fridays at 8:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 and 8 p.m., through June 2.

Where: South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

Whereabouts: San Diego Freeway to Bristol Street exit north. Bristol to Town Center Drive.

Wherewithal: $22-$29.

Where to Call: (714) 957-4033.

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