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THEATER REVIEW : Part Farce, Part Comedy 'Love' Needs a Major Restructuring

October 21, 1995|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Playwright-director-star Marion Gallo spread herself too thin in "Love Struck" at the Zeitgeist Theater. She needs help from someone with a more objective eye.

Pushy, blonde Tina (Gallo) arrives at the dumpy Brooklyn office of distraught private eye Vinnie Sinatra (John Gallucci), who owes $9,000 to some thugs. Tina wants him to spy on her errant husband.

Before the day and the play have ended, Tina solves Vinnie's problems with his creditors, as well as her own problems with her philandering husband and his pregnant girlfriend. She even solves the girlfriend's problems, going so far as to deliver her baby--who's coming out head first--in a darkened elevator.

In short, the play looks suspiciously like a testimonial to superwoman Tina--the character who's played by the writer-director. Yet it's supposed to be part farce, part romantic comedy--genres that don't comfortably accommodate such paragons of humanity.

Presumably we're supposed to be initially put off by Tina's mouth--"You could kill a shark with the sound of your voice alone," Vinnie tells her. But Gallo's voice hardly lives up to this billing; it sounds almost sweet, and occasionally her lines drift off so they can hardly be heard.

The play needs restructuring--the first act ends abruptly after many false alarms, and the romance doesn't begin until much too late, so that it seems tacked on. The pacing is patchy, with amusing passages followed by dead time, especially during the breaks between scenes.

The performances are broad but not bad. The best of them is Rose Marie Johnson's, first as a stunningly powerful Mafia moll, then as a male pizza deliverer named Jesus. Johnson has the vocal command that Vinnie attributed to Tina; her performance is the only striking aspect of "Love Struck."

* "Love Struck," Zeitgeist Theatre, 2330 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Nov. 19. $15. (310) 444-1867. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.

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