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THEATER BEAT

Lessons of Life Stir 'Drama Coach'

July 29, 1994|SCOTT COLLINS

At one time or another in our lives, we have all had a teacher like Mari Rothka (Lorna Raver), the title character in Corey White's rich and moving play "The Drama Coach," now at Hollywood Actors Theatre.

When she sees one of her students slogging through a dull interpretation, Rothka is liable to grab the startled actor from behind, cover his eyes and shout, "Don't pay any attention to me! Concentrate on the scene!"

Much of the play is devoted to Rothka's often hilarious attempts to whip this class of eager but naive acting students into shape. But "The Drama Coach" is really about how Rothka--a left-wing protester as well as a talented actress--survived the Communist blacklist of the 1950s.

The beauty of the text lies in the way it subtly and artfully links these two narrative threads after the class receives a visit from Lloyd Cone (John McKay), the movie star who betrayed Rothka many years before. We all survive, White suggests, by concentrating on the scene, whatever it may be.

Raver delivers a knockout portrayal of Rothka, whom she plays as a fiercely intelligent woman whose imperious nature belies her deep humanity. Fine support comes from Betty Porter, as a student with divided loyalties to Cone and Rothka, and Todd Fraser, who also directed.

* "The Drama Coach," Hollywood Actors Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays 8 p.m., Sundays 7 p.m. $10. (213) 856-8952. Ends July 31. Running time: 2 hours and 5 minutes.

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