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Opposites Attract in Solo Works


What is more painful, the inexorable decline into middle age or the tumultuous ascent through adolescence?

Part of the Covert Lover series, "Confessions of a Middle-Aged White Heterosexual Male (just the high points)" and "Thicker Than Water, Thinner Than Ice" at Glaxa Studios address just that question. Two solo shows on a single bill, these thematic opposites are nicely balanced companion pieces that examine life from opposite ends of mortality's spectrum.

"Confessions," Jan Munroe's solo piece, could well be subtitled "Portrait of the (Performance) Artist as an Aging Man." As heavy planks thunk down from above (avoid the front row if at all possible) Munroe reflects, in drolly nonlinear fashion, about the indignities of the aging process.

One memorable anecdote concerns Munroe's hunting expedition with some good ol' boys in the North Florida woods (the turkey was spared). As Munroe impersonates the bird's spasmodic mating dance, he drives home the irony of human endeavor, intimating that as we lope loonily through life, we are all dead-center in the sights of fate's 12-gauge.

Munroe's brief work-in-progress is a fitting curtain-raiser for the main event, Rob Sullivan's coming-of-age story about Henry Kelly, a Bakersfield boy with a longtime crush on his cousin Ramona. A first-person narrative told entirely from Henry's perspective, "Thicker" traces Henry and Ramona's relationship from childhood through adolescence. Ultimately, we are left looking back through the sad eyes of the adult Henry, pondering the chain of tragic circumstance he was unable to avert.

As children, Henry and Ramona cavort in a sun-kissed cul-de-sac outside Ramona's home. But the teenage Ramona turns wild, eventually eloping with an older boy who introduces her to life on the streets. Tracking Ramona to Salt Lake, Henry brings her home--but he can never bring back the sweet Ramona of his childhood. Henry may be directionless and confused, but he's a beacon of decency in the doomed Ramona's sordid world.

Sullivan's work contains a loony mating dance, too--the only time that Sullivan, who spends the entire show seated in a chair, gets up and moves around the stage. Daringly austere and focused, the staging boils away nonessentials into a pure distillation of language. And what language it is--soaring poetry underscoring a beautifully sustained narrative.

Sullivan's performance is not particularly virtuosic, but Henry Kelly assumes heroic proportions, engaging our minds as well as our hearts on his painful journey into maturity.

* Glaxa Studios, 3707 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Feb. 17. $12.50. (213) 663-5295. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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