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Distress Signals on the Road of Life : 'Stations' offers unpretentious look at how characters' anxiety is displaced by strangers' life-affirming actions.


"Stations," two one-acts at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles, are pristine dramas about accidental encounters on life's bumpy road. The production's chief distinction is its spare, clean line, both in the technical design and execution, and director Ted Tobin's unwavering sense of focus.

These are unpretentious plays about figures in distress and how their anxiety is displaced by the life-affirming actions of a stranger. In fact, there's something almost beatific about these plays that unfold on a bridge over a canyon in "Throw Me a Line" and on a rural railroad station platform in "G.I. (Good Intentions)."

The acting has momentum. Ted Burnham displays a mercurial range, segueing from a chipper, charming rescuer who saves a young woman from suicide in "Throw Me a Line" to a troubled soldier bringing home an addled young charge who suffered a concussion under his command.

The brain-damaged young soldier is a softly endearing portrait by Josh Miller. The production's two women (Cyndi Strittmatter as the suicidal character on the bridge and Susan Diol as a helpful traveler at the railroad station in the second play) give performances that grow from dark specks on a desolate landscape to luminous figures.

The live incidental music of Jay Spears, Don Burt's artful platform design and D Martyn Bookwalter's copper-toned lighting enrich the experience.

"Stations," Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Thursdays - Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Aug. 4. $5-$10; (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

'Lunchtime' in Time for Lunch Time

This seductive Leonard Melfi one-act about a rich, unhappily married dame and the handyman she hires to give her furniture a natural finish holds up well for a 25-year-old play. But the major interest in "Lunchtime" is that the curtain is at lunchtime, in the Zephyr Theatre, and the admission is only $1.99.

Director Gilberto Costa Nunes (who's from Brazil) had the novel idea of targeting senior citizens who can't afford the $15 that many small venues charge, and who are wary about going out at night. One couple showed up and said "We saw the sign about lunch time. Where's the sandwiches?"

"Lunchtime" is also an opportunity for younger workers in the bustling neighborhood to catch a pungent show during their midday break. The production features a spiral staircase and a solid performance from Len Donato as the blue-collar stud. Taylor Donlan's sexually smitten wife is too demure and tremulous to catch the voracious appetite of her character, but Nunes directs with crisp dispatch.

"Lunchtime," Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, Tuesdays-Thursdays, 12:30 p.m., Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Aug. 15. $1.99; (213) 960-5050. Running time: 45 minutes.

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