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THEATER REVIEW : 'Dos Corazones' Shines at the Hudson


If you were to throw an armful of scripts into the air, watch them fall and then pick a few at random, you might come up with a more cohesive program than "Four-Thought," a quartet of one-acts at the Hudson Theatre in Hollywood.

Forethought is exactly what's missing from this motley bill. A good one-act, like a good short story, is not so much a narrative as an epiphany of character--a well-chosen moment in which someone becomes him- or herself. A bad one-act has a way of melting an entire evening into soap opera or sitcom mush.

Richard Hellesen's "Dos Corazones" ("Two Hearts") benefits from comparison to its weaker cousins on the bill, but would still be a sturdy enough effort on its own. In fact, based on a production at Theatre 40, Hellesen's script was recently nominated for an Ovation Award.

Two new mothers--Ana (Michelle Danner), a working-class Latina, and Cheryl (Wendy Clifford), a neurotic suburbanite--befriend each other in the maternity ward, despite the fact that Ana speaks little English and Cheryl less Spanish. But, of course, they bond: Ana is the nurturing type, and Cheryl is clearly on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Her face a tragic, tear-besotted mask, Cheryl explains how alienation from her husband and mother has made her feel alienated from her newborn girl. Now that the baby is born, she reasons, it no longer belongs to her but to them, the chaotic and impersonal world outside the womb. What Ana brings to the picture is a reminder of the bond of maternity--and the dread of mortality.

This equation might strike some viewers as a little too easy, too schematic. Yet director Larry Moss has deftly mined the humor and pathos from the script by Hellesen (formerly on the literary staff of South Coast Repertory). Clifford's performance, though, is a revelation, heartbreaking and hilarious in its intimate vulnerability.

Even a gifted actress like Clifford can't save "Does This Woman Have a Name," Theresa Rebeck's preposterous waste of time and paper about a struggling writer (Clifford) who becomes a phone-sex operator over the objections of her yuppie-jerk boyfriend (David Kriegel). The implied theme--that sexual power games hinder intimacy--gets buried amid cardboard dialogue and sluggish direction from Jerry Levine.

A pair of merely mediocre chamber pieces book-end the evening. Billy Hayes directs "Gangster Apparel," Richard Vetere's snappy but slight encounter between a couple of Queens hoods (Brian Drillinger and Jonathan Chapin) who discover that clothes make the (hit) man. "Pulp Fiction" serves up far better banal mobster banter than this.

Rounding out the program is Lisa Reardon's darkly comic "Dove," concerning a Tribeca stockbroker (Ben Meyerson) slowly driven crazy by the early morning song of a mourning dove, which he alone can hear. While the conceit is interesting, director Levine vainly chases down a sense of mystery and tragedy that proves every bit as elusive as the bird of the title.

* "Four-Thought," Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Nov. 20. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.

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