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Lab Could Use Textbook

OCC students ignore basic playwriting rules that should be learned before they're broken.


The mostly original one-acts that make up "Love Stinks," at Orange Coast College's Drama Lab in Costa Mesa, look very much like quickly done sketches that might someday evolve into plays. For the most part they ignore the basic precepts of playwriting, rules that should be learned before attempting to break them.

A play must be about an event, described in such a way--realistic, abstract or hermetic as the case may be--as to communicate at least some of the author's intent to the audience. Even the one play by a known author, Steven Dietz's "After You," is only a note for a fuller work.

One of the more interesting pieces is "Words Waste My Time," written and directed by Theodore D. Kamouris; but its interest lies only in the high style and theatricality of its creator.

No statement is made, and nothing happens that classifies it as a play. A Corpse lies on the floor. A young man (Tadao Ogihara) rants and raves, in Japanese, about how words are inadequate to express his feelings, then an Angel (Denice Moharsky), perhaps the soul of the Corpse, soothes him. They finish orgiastically shaking to rock music. No, not a play, but an intriguing ink blot.

There might be a play in David Scaglione's "Drive-By Romance," but at this stage it's only a television sketch about a hesitant young man and his alter ego (Keith Bennett, Jake Kandel) botching up a first date with an attractive woman and her alter ego (Andrea Jackson, Caroline Colesworthy). Kandel, as the horny alter ego, is a comedy performance of merit, but even Michael L. Ruelas' tight direction doesn't mask the unscripted hesitancy of the other three actors.

Another bit that doesn't fulfill its promise is "Fire on Babylon," with no program credit for authorship, but directed by Sara Moneymaker with a "dance concept" by Kim Fenton.

A Husband (Kevin Calisher) has lost his job and comes home drunk, blaming his wife (her passive and aggressive sides played by Lea Kassebaum and Pamela Russell). He hits her, and the remaining action, supposedly dance, has the trio knocking each other against the walls of the stage and tumbling on the floor. Another valid idea that never got past the initial-image stage.

The longest piece is "Circuits," written and directed by Jeffrey Roma.

Although its scenes are television sitcom short--its subject matter treated too simplistically--and it needs cutting, it is a play. There is an event.

Purportedly straight Kev O'Neal (Morgan Lowry) floors a homosexual who kisses him in a gay bar. And paramount to the concept of a play, a major character goes through a traumatic change: Kev finally confesses that he looks at girls but is more turned on by their male escorts.

Roma's direction is straightforward and brisk.

And performances by Lowry, Sean Henry as his best friend, Darcy Blakesley and Tiffany McClintock as their main squeezes, and Chris Friel as the guy who kissed Kev and haunts him psychically, bring honesty and sensibility to the piece.


"Love Stinks," Drama Lab, Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. Saturday, 5 and 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m. Ends Sunday. (714) 432-5640. $5-$6. Running time: 2 hours.

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