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THEATER BEAT

Promising 'Winter' Needs More Resources

April 30, 1993|JAN BRESLAUER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Susan Champagne has a knack for ditsy but brainy romantic comedies--very '90s. She's been one of Los Angeles' undersung playwriting talents for years. You'll have to take that on faith, though, because her current outing isn't up to par.

"Winter Soldiers," which Champagne also directed, is set backstage at a Democratic presidential primary rally in New England. Most of the stressed-out campaign staffers have known each other since grade school, and in the two decades since, as Talleyrand said of the kings of France, they have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Their unrequited attractions and 20-year grudges dominate the agenda.

"Winter Soldiers" is a one-act that's too long to be a one-act, but it's not a full play either. What's more, the piece can't get up a head of steam cramped into such a small physical space, and an under-rehearsed cast bogs down the pace.

This is a script that begs for the keep-'em-rolling rhythm of a Howard Hawks comedy, while sharpening its David Lynch edge. There's potential here. But bottom line, "Winter Soldiers" needs more resources. And Champagne deserves them.

Joe Goodrich's underwritten "Sedan Delivery" shares the bill with "Winter Soldiers" at Theatre of NOTE. It's about two thugs hanging out by a pay phone: There's lots of waiting, but no Godot. They fume, they fight, they fret, they say the f-word.

Most of the "script" is action, not words--decently performed by Doug Burch and Raub McKim, with David Conner as their hostage (more shades of Waiting for You-Know-Who). In fact, if the playwright hadn't directed his own work here, the text itself may not have run much more than 20 minutes--which, on second thought, might not have been such a bad thing.

* "Sedan Delivery" and "Winter Soldiers," Theatre of NOTE, 1705 N. Kenmore Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends May 22. $5-$10. (213) 666-5550. Running time: 2 hours, 55 minutes.

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