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THEATER REVIEW

'60s Issues Resurface in 'John Lennon'

March 07, 1997|PHILIP BRANDES

Auras, Woodstock, patchouli oil--name your '60s relic and it's bound to get trotted out in James McClure's painfully earnest homage to failed boomer ideals, "The Day They Shot John Lennon" at the Ventura Court Theatre. A sort of dramatic equivalent to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," this meandering ensemble piece rams an exhaustive roster of loaded catch phrases through a very narrow premise: a gathering of mourning fans outside the New York hotel where the ex-Beatle was murdered.

Unfortunately, recitation isn't the same thing as exploration, and the various characters dutifully cycling through their respective issues (feminism, Vietnam, racism, aging), never delve past the perimeters. They do, however, afford a chance to hone the talents of director Kate Randolph's enthusiastic acting class, buoyed by veteran actor John Randolph as a humorous curmudgeon.

But with so much that is unexamined lurking beneath its facile platitudes and stereotypes, this one may be a more astute commentary on the '60s than it intended.

* "The Day They Shot John Lennon," Ventura Court Theatre, 12417 Ventura Court, Studio City. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends March 23. $15. (213) 466-1767, (818) 953-9993. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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