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The Dark Side--From a Safe Distance

March 21, 1993|EMILY ADAMS

The H-man is in everyone.

The H-man is in you--he is that dark blot on your all-too-human psyche that occasionally considers violence a viable alternative, that thinks "Bonnie and Clyde" looked like a lot of fun.

And now, thanks to the California Repertory Company's new adaptation of Lee K. Abbott's novella "Living After Midnight," you can watch your dark side on stage.

Which is better than having him sneak up behind you in an alley.

In this story of friendship, crime and exploring the road not taken, H-man is actually a college dropout by the name of Hoffman--an antagonist, of sorts, to his old college buddy Reed.

The two men find a likeness in each other in the rarefied air of an unnamed university. Both are bright and very bored--a dangerous combination most commonly found in literature majors and certain child actors.

The difference between Reed and Hoffman is that Reed keeps his dark side under the wet canvas wrappings of propriety and responsibility. He graduates, buys a condo and a Ford Escort and keeps a job writing for a magazine. Hoffman disappears for three or four years.

When H-man comes back, he has some scary prison stories, a robbery conviction and the ability to shake Reed's world to its roots.

Howard Burman, CalRep's artistic director and the man who adapted Abbott's story for the stage, saw in the story every person's desire to peek into danger. He also saw duplicity, a narrative line difficult to re-create on stage and some wonderful dialogue, he said.

"The story defies reasonable explanations, really. That made it very difficult to stage," Burman said.

To capture the timelines, the narrator and the sense of duplicity, Burman created a multimedia staging--with a film playing on the back wall of the stage and actors playing out the past in front of the movie.

This sounds like a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but Burman swears that it isn't. The actors on stage are not reciting lines along with the movie, but are taking turns competing with the movie for the audience's attention.

Making the action between the movie--filmed by Sharyn Blumenthal--and live actors move seamlessly back and forth has been a bit of a nightmare for the theater, Burman admits.

We think the price of admission ($15) would be worth it just to see if they pull it off.

CalRep Theatre, Cal State Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach. Playing through April 3; most shows have 8 p.m. curtains with a few scattered matinees. Information: (310) 985-5526.

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