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Deadpan 'Sensitive' Hits the Parody Mark

November 04, 1994|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

Psychobabble is raised to a fine art in "Sensitive People," Matthew Nelson's dead-on parody about the modern therapy movement.

In Nelson's play, the members of a therapy group run by Dr. Courtney (Jane A. Rogers) meet regularly at a local art gallery. The setting might as well be a church. For these acolytes, self-analysis substitutes for spirituality. No matter that their moral musings are innately narcissistic, they got that old New Age religion.

Into this cult of self-involvement blunders James, a regular guy who joins the group because he wants to date one of the female regulars. While the others grope to discover their inner females and discourse ad nauseam about their childhoods, James becomes increasingly exasperated, finally erupting into open rebellion against the systematic stupidity.

To no avail. All James' sarcasm and appeals to logic cannot puncture the humorless sanctimony of these "sensitive" people, who eventually give the apostate his walking papers.

Nelson, who also plays James, perfectly nails these oh-so-serious, oh-so-sensitive, oh-so-hilarious characters, whose spate of self-congratulatory double-talk seldom makes one ounce of sense. Director Daniel Rojo imposes an air of effective sobriety on the zaniness. The scrupulously deadpan cast, which also includes Tim Ahern, Ken Stephens, Janis Reno and Samantha Humphrey, are so somberly silly, they're scary.

* "Sensitive People," Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Runs indefinitely. $12.50. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour.

Bond's 'Tuesday' Stuffy at Academy

As prolix as he is prolific, Edward Bond, former Angry Young Man of the British Theater, has metamorphosed over the years into Splenetic Old Curmudgeon.

Bond's amorphous and repetitive "Tuesday," an obscure polemic about a young soldier's futile struggles against a corrupt military-industrial bureaucracy, is overlong despite its brief running time.

The play may be inchoate, but Bond's program notes, written especially for this Los Angeles production, are pointed, the rantings of a determined socialist who still has a killer bee in his bonnet over the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. Predicting imminent doom for America and ultimately for all of Western civilization, Bond holds forth the hope of "childhood courage" to change the world and deplores the death of the "Imagination."

Some of the passion of Bond's manifesto trickles down into the play itself, but, unfortunately, so does Bond's self-importance and didacticism.

Brian (Kourosh Gohar), an AWOL soldier recently returned from war, seeks refuge with his girlfriend Irene (Dana Kirk), a young student who is snapped out of her usual trance of complacency and acquiescence by Brian's flight and plight. John C. Slade plays Irene's bullying, ultimately craven father, who epitomizes why these particular adolescents should never trust anyone older than 30.

Bond's play is dated and stuffy, the soapbox oration of a burned-out radical preaching to the great unwashed. Further hampered by David Catanzarite's stodgy staging, the production remains oddly unformed, both in substance and execution, a directing-class version of a work-in-progress.

* "Tuesday," Academy Theatre at the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Ends Nov. 20. $12-$15. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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