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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

'Bang' (It's Dead)

April 02, 1998|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — Jonathan leads an empty life. He's a journalist who's not too inquisitive, a widower who shies from involvement. He's a sort of Woody Allen.

Jonathan is the unlikely protagonist in Christopher Trela's comedy "Bang," at Stages. The only spark in his humdrum existence is an interview with an aspiring actress named Juliana, a hotel bartender by day. Neither does Juliana doesn't have much incentive. At their meetings she keeps shouting, "I'm not going to like you." But she does, and that's the spice Trela stirs into Jonathan's drab life.

Jonathan finds out that Juliana is more than a bartender. Under bar manager Lukas' guidance she provides "room service" at $100 a throw. None of this bothers Jonathan, being an innocuous sort of guy, and he arranges an audition for Juliana with a director friend of his.

Juliana still says she's not going to like Jonathan. In a scene fraught with unrealized dramatic possibilities, Jonathan blandly listens while Juliana pours out the details of her sordid life.

Even with Jonathan's laid-back drabness and the indecisive Juliana's overdone tale of evil days, and in spite of a trumped-up happy ending, "Bang" has the potential to be a valid theater piece.

What holds it back is that the characters spend most of their time talking about their emotions, without experiencing them. They rarely speak for themselves, and when they do, it's difficult to believe them.

The actors try valiantly to breathe life into their roles. Dan Michelson is perfectly cast as Jonathan, charming and somewhat self-effacing. Della Lisi is effective as Juliana, in spite of the illogical character changes she is called upon to make.

Angeline Cook is even more effective as the spirit of Jonathan's dead wife. Ken Jaedicke is strong in the small role of the bar manager/pimp, a character that could be deleted to strengthen the significance of the pale relationship of the central characters.

BE THERE

"Bang," Stages, 1188 Fountain Way, Suite E, Anaheim. Friday-Saturday, 10 p.m. Ends Saturday. (714) 630-3059. $5. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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