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THEATER REVIEW : Chekhov Hovers Over 'Go Fish'

August 19, 1993|RICHARD STAYTON

Donald Wayne Jarman is unquestionably a dedicated, prolific playwright--perhaps too prolific. His last venture, "Nine Ball," a riveting autopsy of machismo, recently closed. Now, "Go Fish," a redundant post-mortem about a dysfunctional family, has opened at the Actors Circle Theatre. It's an example of the Chekhov Curse--American playwrights compelled to try their hand at Anton Chekhov's elliptical magic.

Where have we seen this before? Estranged siblings and their significant others gather in an old family farmhouse. Over late-night card games, liquor is consumed, childhood resentments surface, and all shake hands by the end of the long weekend.

Jarman's twist is the character of Timmy (a quivering Ken Little), a mentally handicapped younger brother who must finally be institutionalized. The writing occasionally soars.

But the cast is erratic, ranging from newcomer Laura Borders' impressive Los Angeles stage debut as the "dumb blonde" to Randy Zook's obnoxious domineering brother whose primary pose is a sneer. Director Arthur Mendoza's soporific pace buries Jarman's Chekhovian ambitions.

* "Go Fish," Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Sept. 18. $10. (213) 882-6805. Running time: 2 hours.

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