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THEATER BEAT

'Sunday' Rides With Fantasies

November 03, 1995|PHILIP BRANDES

Rather than ruminate on the road not taken, why not pursue that long-suppressed fantasy? It's the impulse that's brought Pete, a lanky, 30ish writer on the rebound from a failed marriage and stalled career, to a greasy spoon in mythical Beaver, Colo. Acting out his fantasy of anonymity in a small town where everybody knows everybody else, Pete (Paul Edwards) discovers an amiable though predictable mix of laughs and life lessons in writer-director Richard Clayman's sexy new comedy, "Rocky Mountain Sunday," at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.

Clayman's intricate construction indulges Pete's fondest pastime--using the townsfolk he encounters as fodder for whimsical fantasies that come to life onstage. In Pete's scenarios, a clumsy, good-natured cop (Joel Drazner) becomes a leering bully, a shapely hitchhiker (Trish Ramish) mutates into a sociopathic killer and the simple cook (Curt Skaggs) becomes a grown-up version of Pete's own son.

Presiding over these alternate realities with insight and wit is the imaginary figure of Pete's former wife (played by snappy Lisa Close Nelson), who wastes no chance to remind her ex that he's a hopeless dreamer distancing himself from life with pat one-liners.

Lively staging lets the high-octane Actor's Asylum ensemble strut their best over-the-top caricatures. The best scenes set aside cleverness to risk authentic emotion, like the touching encounter between a shy English teacher (Sean Tweedley) and the warm-hearted floozy (Alexandra Raines) he's secretly pined for since grade school, or Pete's own tentative overtures to a spunky but cautious coffee shop waitress (Ella Vierling). Too often, however, the piece settles for the same kind of sitcomy smugness that retards its hero's maturity.

* "Rocky Mountain Sunday," Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. Ends Nov. 19. $12. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.

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