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THEATER BEAT

Getting Lost in Long 'Summers in Suffolk'

June 28, 1996|SCOTT COLLINS

The producers of "Summers in Suffolk" at Towne Street Theater compare the show--a bit optimistically--to "The Kentucky Cycle" and "Angels in America."

Sheri Bailey's saga of six generations of an African American family in Virginia swamp country has an epic length--nearly four hours. But it lacks an epic theme or sense of purpose. Thus what should have been a series of modest, slice-of-life vignettes has been unduly stretched into a string of overlong half-hour playlets.

This is partly because Bailey, whatever her other strengths may be, is not adept at creating memorable characters. Robin Brinkley (Nancy Renee), for instance, appears in the penultimate and final segments as a woman haunted by a lost love. But in the end she seems afflicted by nothing more tragic than a mild case of disillusionment.

The play's weaknesses are probably aggravated by a decision to give each segment a different director (Sy Richardson, Elizabeth Bell-Haynes, Justin Lord, Andi Chapman and Adleane Hunter). Having one person at the helm might have yielded a unifying theme--or, at the very least, encouraged some trimming of the text.

* "Summers in Suffolk," Towne Street Theater, 799 S. Towne Ave., Los Angeles. Saturdays, 7:30 p.m., Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends July 28. $15. (213) 624-4796. Running time: 3 hours, 40 minutes.

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