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'Clairvoyant' Suffers From Cloudy Vision

April 30, 1999|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

Larry Fineberg's postmillennial drama "The Clairvoyant" at Playwrights' Arena attempts to fuse futuristic techno-paranoia and the lush, familiar strains of melodrama, with largely disastrous results. Imagine a sci-fi "Now Voyager" and you'll get the idea. The action is set in a "large coastal city" in the year 2038. The world economy has collapsed, climatological changes have ravaged the environment, and the oceans have been reduced to carcinogenic cesspools.

Down-and-out clairvoyant Timon (Dan Bell), discredited in a recent scandal, depends upon the largess of his dress designer friend Sonia (Sarah Lilly) to survive. When Timon does a rare reading for Lavinia (Elizabeth Cava), a languid heroine of the Gatsby mold, he falls under her spell. Through the machinations of Corin (David Shofner), Lavinia's scheming fiance, Timon finds himself recruited as a sort of in-house psychic for the mysterious Goddard Bernstein (D.G. Bannon), a Machiavellian mogul whose company's bizarre "social experiments" have resulted in the ultimate high-density housing: forced labor "coops," where biologically engineered workers grind out their allotted destinies.

Considering the Orwellian overtones of the piece, its florid romantic dialogue ("Your smell . . . like sun-baked roses . . .") seems weirdly anachronistic. Director Mark Bringelson lends considerable panache to the proceedings, while stylish performances by Cava, Shofner and Garrett Swann as a leather-clad psychic wannabe provide welcome distractions fromFineberg's erratic tale, which has Timon making the leap from moral guru to corporate schemer for no apparent reason other than expediency. Bell plays the title role with a look of frozen perplexity that suggests he too is overwhelmed by the innate illogic of it all.

*

* "The Clairvoyant," Playwrights' Arena, 5262 W. Pico Blvd. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends May 22. $15. (323) 960-7756. Running time: 2 hours.

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