Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

THEATER REVIEW : A Humanistic Festival Featuring Four One-Acts

January 20, 1994|RICHARD STAYTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Fed up with disaster-watch television? Had enough catastrophe? Then get a humanism fix at Theatre 40's fifth annual One-Act Festival. This quartet of new American plays offers earthquake relief in the form of compelling characters who overcome crisis without the aid of rescue teams.

For example, the Craig Lucas monologue "Credo" depicts a solitary male confessing a tale of personal disaster that could have led to suicide. On Christmas eve, he loses everything that matters to him, yet salvages hope out of despair. This epiphany is gracefully acted by Christopher Michael Moore. Director April Webster boldly conceives "Credo" as an exercise in minimalism, rejecting props and restraining gestures; the gambit wins on all counts.

The Festival's keynote play is Richard Hellesen's "Dos Corazones." Two women in a maternity ward have recently given birth. One is poor and speaks Spanish. The other is wealthy and speaks only English. Their intimate hospital room becomes a microcosm of Los Angeles, evoking the city's bilingual differences and cultural conflicts. Poignantly directed by Peter Ellenstein, profoundly performed by Suzanne Goddard and Jill Remez, the production's only flaw is a single sentimental gesture at the close.

The only Festival misstep is "Santa God," "a play about the end of Christmas as we know it." Tim Sims' holiday satire is a witty sketch that director Stewart J. Zully has swollen into a long-winded morality play. The outrageous story is set in a North Pole bar owned by Frosty the Snowman (richly realized by Jeffrey Winner). It seems Santa's alcoholic wife (Cecilia Riddett, a hoot) has the hots for Rudolph (an antlered Jonathan Read). But Rudolph is lobbying the Pope to anoint animals with sainthood. Santa (a fiendishly silly Bill Erwin) is trying to manipulate Rudolph into guiding his sleigh. When the play's magic works, it speeds along like a Tim Burton nightmare; when it brakes for wisdom, "Santa God" puts us to dreamless sleep.

Interrupted sleep triggers the conflicts in Glenn Alterman's moving "Spilt Milk." The gifted Edith Fields impressively portrays a long-suffering spouse who won't repress a past indiscretion, particularly when her husband (an equally impressive Milt Kogan) refuses to let her brood in silence.

* "The Fifth Annual Theatre 40 One-Act Festival," Theatre 40, Beverly Hills High School, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Due to earthquake damage, the theater will be dark through Saturday. Shows are at 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m., Sundays. Ends Feb. 6. $10. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|