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THEATER BEAT

The Offbeat Survives in Dark 'Angel City'

June 07, 1996|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

Sam Shepard's cryptic abstracts are, in a sense, blank slates upon which a talented company can inscribe its own distinctive mark. Shepard's work is reminiscent of Harold Pinter's, a sort of gothic postmodernism simmering with anomie and dread. Given a surface rendering, plays of this ilk can be dull in the extreme. With a little thematic exploration and a lot more insight, however, they can be riveting.

Kathy Scambiatterra's staging of "Angel City" at Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble, though often viciously funny, does not delve deeply enough into the darker recesses of Shepard's mid-'70s-era satire of the movie industry. Scambiatterra transforms Shepard's characters into broad, energetic cartoons--and very effective cartoons they are, particularly Ursula Brooks as the lissome studio secretary and Kevin Quinn as the mad studio head whose inward corruption manifests itself externally in oozing skin rot.

However, despite her talent for the offbeat and able technical support from lighting designer Gerry Linsangan, Scambiatterra does not equip her cast with the essential layers of psychological subtext that would make this solidly rendered production truly great.

* "Angel City," Pacific Resident Theatre Ensemble, 707 Venice Blvd., Venice. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Ends June 29. $18. (213) 468-9170. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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