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THEATER REVIEW : Greenberg's Skilled but 'Real World' Dull : LOS ANGELES FESTIVAL: "HOME, PLACE and MEMORY" A city-wide arts fest.

August 31, 1993|JAN BRESLAUER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Don't let the title snooker you. Albert Greenberg's "The Real World: A Theatrical Confrontation With Music" doesn't have much to do with the world at all. In fact, it doesn't have much to do with anything--except Greenberg's gooey version of himself.

"The Real World . . ." is the second L.A. Festival offering from a Traveling Jewish Theatre. But this piece is more about solipsism than Semitism.

"The Real World . . ." is, in fact, a textbook example of what's wrong with much solo American theater today. The autobiographical focus is of a particularly useless kind: Genus kvetchy-whiny. It's driven by the artist's misguided notion that, if it happened to him, it must be interesting.

But the only confrontation in this real world is between Greenberg's ego and superego. And even that gets drowned in a sea of childhood anecdotes that are about as memorable as your Aunt Rivka's brisket two days after Shabbos.

Over the choppy course of the performance, the skillful Greenberg travels from his boyhood in Chicago to, well, his boyhood in Chicago. There are no fewer than five--count 'em--stories about the trials and trivializations of being a 12-year-old Jewish kid on the South Side. Somehow, Greenberg manages to make it all sound as though you've heard it all before. And if you've been to a solo show or five in the last couple of years, you have .

Sappiest of all is Greenberg on Standard Solo Subject 2, his relationship with his dad. It's not so much that he stoops to a generic rehash of his father's last hours in the hospital but that we never get a sense of who the elder Greenberg was.

Greenberg is a bit more provocative when he finally gets around to the titularly promised world. But that's not until two-thirds of the way through the show. And, even then, it's mostly Greenberg and not much about the world. His facile observations merit no more than a resounding "feh."

Greenberg frequently bursts into snippets of his own original songs and the show is scored, sometimes effectively, by the actor's eclectic instrumental compositions.

Still, the show's nose-dive ending is emblematic. After yet another yarn about 12-year-old Albert--this time about how he once found some ponies locked up in a stable shed--Greenberg bests his own previous bathos. He observes, without a trace of self-awareness, that "my whole life I've been trying to free those little horses."

Go figure. Or better yet, get this able performer a writer.

* "The Real World: A Theatrical Confrontation With Music," a Los Angeles Festival presentation of a Traveling Jewish Theatre production. Written and performed by Albert Greenberg. Directed by Helen Stoltzfus . Technical direction, lighting and set by David Welle. UCLA Little Theater, UCLA (enter Hilgard & Wyton, Lot 3, parking $5), Westwood, Tue.-Thur., 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 2. $10. (800) FEST-TIX. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

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