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THEATER REVIEW : Hankin's Show 'Emmett': A Don Quixote for the '90s

December 16, 1995|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY and * "Emmett Sez:," Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Dark Dec. 24, 31. Ends Jan. 14. $12. (213) 957-1152.

One of the founders of the Committee, the Bay Area improv group, Larry Hankin hasn't lost his touch for organically derived character comedy. In his one-man show "Emmett Sez:" at the Met, Hankin crafts a Don Quixote for the '90s.

Hankin's wise fool is one Emmett Sagittarius Demos, a homeless old codger who spouts aphorisms like Mark Twain on steroids. A part-time meter man in Petaluma, Emmett sustains a head injury trying to rescue a fair damsel from a kidnapper, forgets his own identity and winds up on the streets.

But the new alter ego Emmett weaves for himself, the tall-tale-telling biker rebel Sometimes Jones, is a scrappy hero straight out of folklore.

A loosely strung together, stylistically muddled series of reminiscences and fantasies, the play borrows heavily from various folkloric literary figures, from Cervantes to Robert W. Service to Joel Chandler Harris. Hankin, under Paul McCrane's direction, fails to make much distinction between his various lesser characters, who all come off sounding vaguely alike. However, Emmett is a classic comic characterization, a resonant Everyman, as pitiable as he is noble, who deserves to live on in other, more sustained works.

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