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THEATER REVIEW

'Naked' Exposes Life's Problems

March 14, 1997|JANA J. MONJI

"I Stand Before You Naked," declare 10 disparate women who are "waiting to be loved." These 10 monologues written by Joyce Carol Oates are wistful, hopeful and horrible--tragic pleas for true romance in a real world of hard luck and lies. Director Alison Vail never strays into mawkishness and guides a talented ensemble into sensitive and sometimes frightening portrayals in this West Coast Ensemble production.

Innocence cocoons the horror of discovering a "Little Blood Button," as a woman (Crystal Jackson) contemplates evidence of a gift of herpes from a lover, or as a sassy young woman (Cynthia Monique) recounts her own brutal rape and murder in "Darling I'm Telling You."

Fear of loneliness cloaks an unattractive woman (Tina Witek) in denial as she explains her reasons for marrying an imprisoned serial murderer, while fear of intimacy shrouds an anorexic (Caerthan Banks) as she contemplates her meal for the day in "The Orange."

Not all the moments and characters are equally memorable--a woman filled with thwarted lust (Molly Maslin) for a virginal boy, another ending a marriage (Natalie Barish), a wealthy woman practicing her rituals (Joyce Meadows), a woman whose life may be the reality of a recurring nightmare (Angela DeCicco) and a straitjacketed religious fanatic (Marilyn Watt) act as bridges between the showier sections.

Some of the transitions are too slow and filled with awkward shuffling. But these are minor complaints. Vail's overall vision presents normal people caught in the problems of life. This interpretation gives full power to the twisted edge and slowly revealed mysteries of Oates' script.

* "I Stand Before You Naked," West Coast Ensemble, 522 N. La Brea, Los Angeles. Tuesdays-Wednesdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends March 27. $15. (213) 525-0022. Running time: 2 hours.

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