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Theater | STAGE REVIEW

'The Architect' Shows Structural Cracks

Family drama offers plenty of conflict but raises some unanswered questions.

June 11, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What is it about Scotland that causes so many of its contemporary writers to wallow in hyperbolic angst? In his play "The Architect," presented by Tuesday Laboratory at the Gascon Center Theater, Scottish playwright David Greig shapes up to be a ranking misery-meister in the barrage of cultural anomie racketing out of Scotland.

Architect Leo Black (the nobly befuddled James Harper) was once lauded as a visionary in his field. However, Leo's prizewinning housing project, ironically named Eden Court, has deteriorated into such an appalling slum that tenant activist Sheena Mackie (appealingly spunky Jennifer Griffin, alternating with Kathy Bell Denton) is petitioning to have it razed.

Leo's family life is showing serious structural defects as well. Son Martin (Drew Ebersole, alternating with Parker Mills), a laceratingly alienated closet homosexual, cruises men's rooms for anonymous sex with the likes of volatile slum youth Billy (Mark Doerr). Daughter Dorothy (Jennifer Christopher, alternating with Geraldine Hughes) also has a predilection for high-risk activities--namely, hitchhiking rides from lonely truckers such as Joe (Henry LeBlanc).

Now wife Paulina (intriguing Marilyn McIntyre), an unraveling basket case, is calling it quits on their marriage. And Leo is realizing that his carefully constructed life is disastrously askew.

Director Judith Royer and her excellent cast struggle to imbue Greig's desultory drama with nuance, but the questions remain: Why does this particular family seem so unmitigatedly anguished? And why does the clueless but jocund Leo inspire such apparent disgust in his loved ones? The unspecific agony of the characters and Greig's inability to provide motivations for their actions, even allusively, make for a lengthy and frustrating evening.

BE THERE

"The Architect," Gascon Center Theater, 8735 Washington Blvd. (in the Helms Bakery Complex), Culver City. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends June 28. $15-$20. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

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