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THEATER BEAT

Capable Cast Can't Rescue 'Rockets'

September 05, 1997|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

How would you spend the last few hours of your life? Mitch Giannunzio's "Rockets and Blue Lights" at the Hudson poses this familiar rhetorical question quite literally. In the play, mysterious blue asteroids have recently entered the Earth's atmosphere, bringing with them an invisible but lethal gas that is quickly wiping out the entire population of the planet. Human, that is. For some reason, animals are seemingly impervious to the silent-but-deadly emissions.

Not so the audience, sad to say. Although director Scott Segall elicits some charming performances from his capable cast, all and sundry, both on stage and off, eventually succumb to the play's general gaseousness.

Witty and prominent gay writer Michael (Skip Stellrecht) is awaiting his inevitable fate at his remote cabin in the Massachusetts woods. Joining Michael in his vigil are his actress sister (Eileen T'Kaye) and his neighbors (Patience Cleveland and Ken Salley)--all dyed-in-the-Yankee-woolens liberals who share tastes and opinions so exactly similar that they seem filtered through the same consciousness. (No, there's no Jungian subtext here--just an advanced case of author-in-dialogue.)

Giannunzio's initially deft writing collapses soon after the entrance of the token conservative (Elizabeth Reilly), a character so monumentally bigoted that any hope for a balanced discourse perishes along with the play's rapidly dwindling dramatis personae. The lambently enlightened liberal author and his slack-jawed conservative nemesis engage in a philosophical bear-baiting match, a bloodless and uneven contest cheapened by the very predictability of the playwright's foreordained and overly simplistic intellectual conclusions.

*

* "Rockets and Blue Lights," Hudson Mainstage Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Ends Oct. 8. $15. (888) 566-8499. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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