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Urban Renewal With a Sense of Humor

THEATER BEAT

August 25, 1995|SCOTT COLLINS

Topanga performance artist Kedric Robin Wolfe has a terrific sense of the absurd. Not the existential absurd of Samuel Beckett or Eugene Ionesco, but rather the pointed, socially informed absurd of Jonathan Swift. The kind of absurd that either shocks you or makes you laugh out loud.

Part stand-up satirist, part prophet, Wolfe brings his unique sensibility to "Urban Quartet," one in a trio of new shows he wrote and is performing at Glaxa Studios in Silver Lake (the others are "Paper Thin Walls" and "Snooksie"/"Let Me Explain"). "Urban Quartet" is composed of four increasingly uproarious monologues that satirize aspects of the modern city, from rampant graffiti to runaway consumerism.

The most outrageous is the evening's last segment, "Who would you be if the TVs were free?," in which the bald, barefoot performer imagines a future in which all goods and services are gratis and adults face a choice of becoming truth-seeking overachievers or gluttonous, media-addicted infants. Wolfe's hilariously intense depiction of the latter possibility shows the full extent of his tremendous command over his own speech and body.

Almost as memorable is "The Tags of Your Dreams," another flight of fancy about a world literally covered with graffiti. Tags are so accepted, even adored, that "bored young punks with nothing to do" flout authority by whitewashing walls.

Sometimes the show's points seem a bit opaque, as in "A Brief History of Ants," a short riff about a homeless man. But even taking on a giant topic--such as violent social polarization in "What a Beautiful Thing"--Wolfe finds a way to build a riveting, provocative fable. If we city dwellers must change our lives, then "Urban Quartet" is a fine place to start.

\o7 * "Urban Quartet," Glaxa Studios, 3707 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 14. $10. (213) 663-5295. Running time: 2 hours.\f7

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