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STAGE REVIEW

'Forsaking All' Dishes Out Deceit With a Smile and Moral Rationale

March 26, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What are best friends for? Well, stabbing in the back, for one. Or persistently deceiving, for another. Then there are always the games of vicious one-upmanship that lend piquancy to any relationship.

A slacker soap opera with a nihilistic slant, Brian Dykstra's "Forsaking All Others" at the Powerhouse covers familiar issues of deceit, betrayal and marital infidelity. However, Dykstra raises the philosophical stakes, to savage effect. There are no villains or martyrs in this postmodern morality play. These disaffected urbanites are masters of moral rationalization, actively complicit in their own betrayals.

Oh, some characters are more flagrantly amoral than others. Alan (Bill Mondy), married to Jennifer (Erin J. O'Brien), is an inveterate philanderer who believes that the bigger the lie, the more believable. Alan's best friend and business partner David (Brett Rickaby) harbors an unrequited love for Cloe (Kimber Riddle). The challenge is too great for Alan to resist. He seduces Cloe, then, out of twisted guilt, urges David to have an affair with his own missus. For David, it's a fine opportunity for revenge.

A facile interplay of ideas, Dykstra's drama lapses into too much talk only at the end, when its arguments become too self-consciously circular. Director Gary Dean Ruebsamen and a youthfully urbane cast approach Dykstra's piece with deadpan intensity that perfectly plays up its inherent irony. The setting--New York City--is richly metaphoric, a sort of moral maelstrom into which hip young city dwellers descend, disconnected from integrity, human relationships and their own emotions. It's a dizzying free-fall both fascinating--and sickening--to watch.

BE THERE

"Forsaking All Others," Powerhouse Theater, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica. Thursdays-Fridays, 8 p.m. Ends April 10. $10. (818) 789-8499. Running time: 2 hours.

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