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STAGE REVIEW : A Small Stab at a Common Subject : Peter Parnell's coming-of-age tale, dated in form and style, reaches beyond its capabilities and offers little in the way of dramatic content.

October 16, 1992|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; T.H. McCulloh writes regularly about theater for The Times

Peter Parnell's "Scooter Thomas Makes It to the Top of the World" is a play that's too small for the length of its title, and much too small for its subject matter.

It's a minor comet in a galaxy of better plays that prove male bonding existed before the current young generation was born and that define coming of age in the protesting, pot-smoking mid-'60s.

"Scooter" is dated in style and form, as insightful as an episode of "Saved by the Bell," and its narrative-driven snippets don't give one moment of opportunity for two young actors to display their wares.

That director Jan Christensen chose the play for production seems odd. Dennis Wright's (Andrew Eisenman) childhood-to-adult relationship with recent suicide Scooter Thomas (G. K. Holderer) and his recall of their friendship, with Scooter's ghost, are so commonplace that one wonders why Parnell thought anyone would be interested in these obviously autobiographical meanderings.

Parnell's early play is one of those that young playwrights have to get off their chests before they grow up and get into the real world.

Junior high school boredom and purported loss of virginity do not make fascinating drama. Christensen directs the piece with energy and a generally affectionate tone, but that doesn't help much.

Neither does Eisenman's frequent stumbling over words or his one-color stereotypical impersonations of Scooter's father, older brother, a principal, a gym teacher, etc.

Holderer has an easier time of it, playing only Scooter. And he does it with charm, a sense of humor and sometimes an intensity that gives richer meaning to Parnell's simplistic writing. That he has little to play against usually foils his efforts.

There is no set, only a raised platform and a couple of boxes, but Christensen's staging gives some body to the action.

The involved, uncredited lighting, trying to set mood and place, sometimes finds the actors, sometimes not.

Like the play, it tries to do something beyond its capabilities.

WHERE AND WHEN

Show: "Scooter Thomas Makes It to the Top of the World."

Location: Our Gang Theatre, 11411 Vanowen St., North Hollywood.

Hours: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; ends Oct. 31.

Price: $8-$10.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Call: (818) 503-2952.

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