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Promising Premise Falters in 'Jedediah'

October 23, 1998|JANA J. MONJI

John Bishop's comedy "The Great, Great Grandson of Jedediah Kohler," at 2100 Square Feet performance space, is characterized by a smug self-awareness that grates, and indecision as to which genre to follow.

Bishop is a former member of New York's defunct Circle Rep and a member of the newly established Circle West. Bishop's comedy is Circle West's inaugural production and features an alternating cast.

In modern-day corporate America, Death (David A. Kimball, alternating with Ted Lange and Nick Ullett) is trying to lure Don Kohler (Ben Siegler alternating with Steve Hofvendahl) into dying a "heroic death." Don, the great-great-grandson of a semi-famous Old West lawman, Jedediah Kohler (Ray McKinnon alternating with Steve Tietsort), is going through a midlife crisis. But nothing here is really of great interest--not even the eco-terrorists whom Don will eventually aid.

As director, Bishop might have pushed the elements of the absurd into over-the-top performances. As writer, he might have made Death's battle with unidentified forces beyond his control more intriguing. In both capacities, he might have made this ordinary man more empathetic or charming.

Instead, we are left with a lackluster protagonist in a vaguely ridiculous situation who manages to remain mundane. Death, as the narrator, reminds us we are in a play--both greeting us and threatening us in turns. In other plays this conceit sometimes works; here it's just too cute and self-conscious.

The transition and parallels between Don's corporate life and the intrusion of Jedediah and his life of violence are smoothly handled, but this promising premise goes nowhere.

*

* "The Great, Great Grandson of Jedediah Kohler," 2100 Square Feet, 5615 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. Cast A, with Conchata Ferrell, playing now; Cast B, with Ted Lange, opening Oct. 30. Casts will alternate. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Dark Nov. 23-Dec. 2. Ends Dec. 6. $20. (323) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours.

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