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'Eccentric Buffet' a Showcase for Actor

THEATER BEAT

April 30, 1993

Jeffrey A. Sumner, on the other hand, has plenty of words. Plus which, he can wear a wig with the best of 'em. He switches from frumpy housewife to Greek immigrant substitute teacher to ailing drag queen without missing a beat in the course of his multi-character monologue "The Eccentric Buffet" at Theatre/Theater. But the payoff comes in those moments when Sumner makes you go beyond the padded bra or the fake mustache and hear the anomie behind the chitchat.

L.A. may have had more than its share of solo performers in recent years, but there's always room for an exceptionally empathetic guy who knows his way around a costume trunk. And even though Sumner's seven mildly wacko characters (five men, two women) have no ostensible connection to one another and could probably use one, his piece leaves you as impressed with the actor-writer's skill as with his humanity.

Under Bill Damaschke's direction, Sumner nudges you to take a second look at his rag-tag band. Teetering perilously close to bad taste--as when he uses the Greek immigrant's trouble with English for cheap laughs--Sumner avoids offense because he stops just short of making fun of his characters.

When it comes to compassion, this young actor is up there with the experts--such as actor-writer Michael Kearns or the late Jackson Hughes, who just a few years ago performed his multi-character solo ("Our Man in Nirvana") at this same theater.

* \o7 "The Eccentric Buffet," Theatre/Theater, 1713 Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, Fridays, 10:30 p.m., Mondays, 8 p.m. Ends May 28. $11. (213) 469-9689. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.\f7

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