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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

'Roses' Without the Thorns

A 'comedy about the terrifying spectacle of lifelong love,' about a couple's 20-year union, is far too light.

July 17, 1997|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Performance artists Tom Keegan and Davidson Lloyd celebrate 20 years as a couple in "Bed of Roses," subtitled "a comedy about the terrifying spectacle of lifelong love," at Highways.

It's rosy, all right, but hardly terrifying. The show has a warm, gentle glow. Keegan and Lloyd divide their life together into four chapters of five years each and strive to capture the essence of each period--using eloquent movement as well as sometimes wry, sometimes poignant words.

They do cover a few difficult passages. The most stressful was when Keegan had an affair with a much older married man. But this episode doesn't sting as much as you might expect.

The tensions between the two don't seem serious. Perhaps this is due to the nature of trying to cover 20 years--the narrative has a sketchy, once-over-lightly quality. Or maybe there just hasn't been any intense strain--which is good for them, but not necessarily for "Bed of Roses." The use of fairy-tale metaphors, intended to add lyricism, muddies some of the stories and softens their impact. The show's most moving moment lacks such adornments, as Keegan simply recollects a brother's death from complications of AIDS and how much Lloyd's support meant to him and to his mother.

A few details aren't clear. Shouldn't an anniversary piece demonstrate how the couple met--even if they covered it in an earlier show? Near the end, the two men discuss their desire to have a child and the obstacles in their path, but then they let the subject drop without any sense of resolution.

More treatment of straight prejudices against gay marriages and gay prejudices against couples--even if the duo believe they've been there, done that--might add a welcome edge. "Bed of Roses" is pleasant, but a bit too close to "I Do! I Do!"

BE THERE

"Bed of Roses," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Today-Sunday, 8:30 p.m. $15. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

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