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THEATER BEAT

'Pike' Shows Insight Into Male Identity

May 31, 1996|PHILIP BRANDES

"The Size of Pike," Lee Wochner's sharp, comic look at that quintessential male bonding ritual, the fishing trip, is a refreshing departure from the popular school of plays about emotionally dysfunctional men at Hudson Backstage Theatre.

Though clearly adept with the sidesplitting line, Wochner never wades into the glib pond of sitcom ridicule--instead, his insightful dialogue honors the complexity surrounding issues of masculine identity in a changing world.

Not that his polarizing protagonist, Rod (Richard Ruyle), a brusque New Jersey construction worker, isn't bait for politically correct criticism. The kind of man's man who lines his bookshelves with cases of motor oil, Rod is unrepentant about the racist and sexist outbursts that leave even his fishing buddies (perfectly cast James Smith and Keith Sellon-Wright) angling for an escape.

Yet a poignant dimension to the beleaguered Rod emerges in his verbal sparring--an untenable individualism that flounders in a changing social order. There are no easy answers to the issues Wochner tackles--and in fact the play's only shortcoming is that it stops short of even partial answers. But Julie Briggs' staging nets enough sympathy and humor from these turbulent waters to stock a fine kettle of--well, you know.

* "The Size of Pike," Hudson Backstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends June 30. $18. (213) 857-8094. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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