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STAGE REVIEW

'Stranglehold' Needs More to Grasp

September 18, 1997|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Dan Duling's "Stranglehold" at Glaxa Studios is an often-enthralling drama that explores the common tendency of constitutionally weak people to tyrannize and exploit the stronger individuals in their family orbits.

In this case, the family bastion--and sole financial support--is young Karly (Kristine Keever), who has been reduced to stripping in order to support her deranged mother, Vera (Julia Brothers). Lou (Michael Monks), an unemployed alcoholic, is Vera's live-in caregiver--as well as another mouth to feed. Now, Karly's senile grandmother, Clarissa (Bobbi Holtzman), has been kicked out of her nursing home for non-payment and returned to sender--namely, the already overburdened Karly. Meanwhile, Karly's ne'er-do-well new boyfriend Earl (Eric Drachman) is secretly planning a highly illegal score that he hopes will cure Karly's financial woes forever.

Sandelle Kincaid's unimaginative direction and Keever's unfortunately muted performance blunt the irony in this "dark comedy" until dangerously late in the game. As for the play, the characters are intriguing and the premise provocative--although the action is sometimes reduced to a dramatic shorthand difficult to decipher. Duling fails to adequately delineate the family's etiology prior to its present sorry pass, or satisfactorily explain the subtexts behind his characters' aberrant dynamic. Despite this, late-breaking, hilariously unexpected plot twists show us how gripping this family skeleton could be if fleshed out in a livelier production.

*

BE THERE

"Stranglehold," 3707 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends Oct. 12. $10-$12. (213) 993-5717. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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