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THEATER BEAT

'Job' and 'Divorce' Split Into Disarray

March 29, 1996|SCOTT COLLINS

"In the Company of Friends" at the Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts in North Hollywood is a double bill of one-act plays written and directed by Lynn Mamet.

The first, "The Job," is a disaster, a crowded and chaotic ensemble piece set in a neighborhood bar frequented by tough-talking cops. The conflict is supplied by veteran cop Bobby (Kelly Edward Nelson), who's down on himself and his career after humiliating a suspect during an interrogation.

Unfortunately, 11 characters are about twice as many as can be reasonably developed in a short play, especially one with markedly shoddy structure and dialogue. "Do we ever talk about anything of substance?" Bobby asks his dimwitted partner Callie (Stephen H. Vaughan). The answer is no.

The second piece, "The Divorce," boasts an original conceit but drifts toward incoherence (Grace Players staged it last year). Here agoraphobic housewife Annie (a shrill Amity Janow) agonizes over her rift with her best friend Peninna (a nicely ironic Casey Payden) while Annie's puzzled husband Deegan (Danny Neiman) observes.

Mamet (the sister of playwright David Mamet) puts a playful spin on the issue of platonic friendship, but Annie is such a bountifully irritating character she nearly sabotages the entire enterprise.

One senses that with few exceptions the showcase-style performances have resulted from a director who placed the desires of the young cast over the interests of the plays or their viewers.

* "In the Company of Friends," Sanford Meisner Center for the Arts, 5124 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends April 28. $12. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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