The first pairing in Actor's Workout Studio's one-act festival confirms that some writers are stuck in the '60s, while others have joined the rest of us in the '90s. Or, put another way, Dan W. Davis' "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" recalls nothing less than a sketch from the gone-and-why-isn't-it-forgotten TV series, "Love American Style," while Shannon Bradley's "But That Wasn't Sex" is a seriously funny attempt at finding an original theatrical device to discuss the emotional desires of women.
It's like pairing an Etch-A-Sketch doodle with a real painting, but that's the state of things in theater, where seemingly half the writers want to write for television. "Bewitched" begins with a lame sitcom premise, and just gets lamer. Daisy (Pamela Brull), who works with Les (Brad Yates), storms into his little apartment late one night to, well, get rid of her virginity before she turns 40, an event that is an hour away. The catch is that Les is, well, impotent, and is technically a virgin too.
Good actors reduced to chattering marionettes by the repetitive, hack-like writing, Brull and Yates try to inject some charm in this predictable battle between people scared of sex.
Bradley may have a contrived setup for "But That Wasn't Sex"--three women in a group psychotherapy session inexplicably locked in the bathroom for the night--but she builds an inventive piece of theater upon it.
Cleverly alternating between isolated monologues and spunky dialogues, Bradley presents three women as '90s archetypes. Maureen (Shareen Mitchell) is streetwise, single and, beneath a tough exterior, sad that she may always be alone. Jean (Margaux St. Ledger) is an affluent blond "ice queen" whose perfect facade hides deep distress. Sam (Marina Palmier) is a 40-year-old divorcee on the verge of discovering real passion for the first time.
Playing with time, perspective, plus actor George Hertzberg--in multiple roles as the man of these women's dreams (including Prince Charming, which gives you an idea where this play's heart is)--Bradley has a fun time with serious themes.
* "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and "But That Wasn't Sex," Actor's Workout, 4735 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Saturdays. 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Aug. 3. $12. (818) 506-3903.