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Stage | THEATER REVIEW

Mishmash Doesn't Mesh

Three unrelated bits make up 'Month of Thursdays' at Actors Forum Theatre.

May 15, 1997|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In Jules Tasca's "Stuff," which opens Actors Forum Theatre's variety show, "A Month of Thursdays," a mental patient named Roscoe collects bric-a-brac and takes it with him wherever he goes. He lugs around everything from his dirty laundry to sweets to fountain pens.

"A Month of Thursdays" (playing, naturally, on Thursdays only) is Roscoe's kind of evening--a little of this, a little of that, none of it really belonging together.

It's hard to tell if having Roscoe (played over the top by Bert Hinchman opposite Frank Califano's security guard) as the opener is meant to set a theme, because Roscoe's too scattered to set anything.

Then again, so is this whole show. Tasca's piece, directed by Shawn Michaels is so short that we never get to know the old guy--just that he's nuts in a way light comedies like this want us to adore.

But what to make of the next act, a sketchy and, again, short musical set with singer Judi Faye and pianist Billy Revel. Faye struggles through such songs as "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" and "On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)," and Revel tends to bang rather than caress the keyboard.

Because of its brevity and shapelessness, under Audrey M. Singer's direction, the piece feels like an oddity rather than an interlude.

Finally, though, there's a play: Robert Anderson's one-act "Shock of Recognition," directed by Michaels. Playwright Jack Barnstable (Doug May) insists to his producer Herb Miller (Hinchman) that the opening of his play must highlight the hero in full frontal nudity.

It's not for titillation, understand. It's to shock the audience into recognizing themselves in the image of an average, slightly ridiculous-looking naked man.

Anderson sets up a potentially classic debate between art and commerce, the playwright's vision versus the producer's need to appease the most people possible. (Some producers, of course, would leap on Jack's idea and exploit it to the hilt, but this never seems to occur to Anderson's producer.)

The work goes off-kilter with an extended comic bit involving an auditioning actor (Larry Lederman) that serves only to insult actors. May keeps a human pulse on Jack's character, but the point of the play gets lost in the yuks. A curious end to a curious evening.

BE THERE

"A Month of Thursdays," Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays. Ends May 29. $6. (818) 506-0600.

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