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THEATER BEAT

An Uneasy Blend of Genres in 'Talk Show'

May 23, 1997|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

Ronnie Larsen's confused, sensationalistic "Talk Show" at the Zephyr takes dramatic license to new lows.

Larsen, author of the long-running play "Making Porn" and who also directs here, loosely bases his piece on the headline-grabbing murder of Scott Amedure, killed by Jonathan Schmitz after Amedure confessed his secret passion for Schmitz on "The Jenny Jones Show."

Although the program baldly cites the Jones show scandal as the play's inspiration, Larsen changes the characters' names, probably not so much to protect the innocent as to avoid a lawsuit. Here, Jenny Jones is Jill Johnson (Stephanie Bell), a talk-show host whose ratings-conscious producer, Judy (Diane Mizrahi), urges her on to ever-greater excess. Schmitz metamorphoses into Lee Chaplin (Daniel William, alternating in the role with Frank Krueger), a buff man's man who protests too much about his own heterosexuality. Amedure becomes the lovelorn, almost hysterically star-struck Stanley (Justin Christopher), whose 15 minutes of fame prove fatal.

There are inspired touches, such as a sort of Greek chorus in drag that lip-syncs a torchy commentary on the action. Yet this uneasy blend of grittiness and camp never commits to a genre, much less a theme, remaining as mindlessly explicit as the talk shows that inspired it.

* "Talk Show," Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 7 and 10 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends June 1. $22. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours.

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