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THEATER BEAT

'One Hour Without Television' Yields Insight on Alienation

May 09, 1997|PHILIP BRANDES

For a callous egotist who equates distraction with fulfillment, the prospect of "One Hour Without Television" can be daunting--especially if one's wife is set on using the time for serious confrontation.

Despite the comic overtones, the consequences of neglected communication are potentially deadly serious for a stagnant upper-middle-class marriage in Spanish playwright Jaime Salom's new work at the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts.

In performances alternating weekly in English and Spanish, some potent insights into the nuances of marital alienation fuel the fireworks between Edward (James Victor in the reviewed English version)--a swaggering, philandering publicist--and his pianist wife, Patricia (Margarita Stocker). Parlaying yet another overlooked marriage anniversary into an opportunity to reveal why she's decided to leave him, Patricia's stab at empowerment sends Edward on a headlong descent into sarcasm, denial, groveling and abusive rage.

Despite his unpleasant behavior, Victor's energy and natural charisma keep Edward an engaging figure--he shows her everything except a good reason to stay with him. Too often, however, his emotional seesaws strain credibility with their awkward lurches between parody and heartfelt revelation. Some stilted dialogue (at least in the translation) compounds the artifice.

For an abused victim, Stocker's Patricia seems curiously unsympathetic, but we find out why in the end--one thing director Miriam Colon gets exactly right is the sad truth that in dysfunctional relationships that endure over time, there's complicity on both sides.

* "One Hour Without Television," Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, 421 N. Ave. 19, Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends June 1. $17. (213) 225-4044. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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