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THEATER BEAT

'Savannah Bay' Pries Into a Cloudy Past

August 30, 1996|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

"Savannah Bay" at City Garage is vintage Marguerite Duras. Cryptic, often bordering on the absurd, the play's apparently desultory dialogue underscores a pervasive atmosphere of dread and loss.

Madeleine (Strawn Bovee), an aging, incipiently senile actress, parries the prying questions of her grandchild, the Young Woman (Christina Kew). The Young Woman seems intent upon delving into Madeleine's past, especially the drowning of Madeleine's daughter Savannah--her mother.

Born on the day of Savannah's death, the Young Woman desperately tries to piece together some rationale behind the tragedy. As the shade of Savannah's long-ago lover (Cameron Park) peers eerily through the French door windows, Madeleine recounts events as she remembers them. Whether Savannah's death was accident, suicide or the simple functioning of fate remains unclear. Only one thing is certain: Savannah died for love.

Production designer Charles Duncombe's fashionably spare seaside dwelling is fraught with mystical possibilities. Effectively stiff, Kew and the elegant Bovee are as mannered as programmed automata. Director Frederique Michel's offbeat but decorous interpretation strangely suits Duras' obscure drama.

* "Savannah Bay," City Garage, 1340 1/2 (alley) 4th St., Santa Monica. Wednesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 12. $12. (310) 319-9939. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

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