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Summer Splash | Theater : Theater Review

The Aftermath

Circle X's 'Show and Tell' deals with an explosion in a school classroom. Topical? Not really.

May 20, 1999|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES THEATER WRITER

At first, Circle X Theatre's production of Anthony Clarvoe's "Show and Tell" at Stages appears to be eerily topical. It's about a teacher who survived a classroom explosion that killed all of her students, and also about the team of official experts who try to piece together the remains of the dead and reconstruct what went wrong.

As it turns out, however, any resemblances to the attack on Columbine High School are not as close as one might think. Written in 1992 and scheduled by Circle X before recent events in Littleton, Colo., "Show and Tell" is set at an elementary school. Without giving away the plot's most suspenseful point, we can say that the roots of Clarvoe's fictional explosion have nothing to do with media violence, lax gun control or teenage psychopaths--though one other factor that has been cited as contributing to the Columbine massacre is, in fact, a bit more pertinent.

Still, the play is not about the roots of violence. Actually, the play's theme is a little hazy. Yet it does stir up a few reflections on the fragility of life and the need to connect with others and with our own memories, no matter how futile the connection.

Circle X, last year's hottest young theater company, takes a very different tack with "Show and Tell." The company's reputation was built on cerebral wit and wildly baroque designs. But "Show and Tell," staged by Luck Hari, is much more realistic, at least on the surface--with a severe set design and only a few grim, little laughs.

The central character is Corey (Shannon O'Hurley), who was returning to her classroom, after running a fateful errand, when the room blew up. In a couple of scenes that depict her classroom technique, O'Hurley makes Corey look like a wonderful teacher, for what it's worth--which may not be much in these circumstances.

Seth (Paul Sandberg) leads the pack of investigators who descend on Corey's small town. This group falls back on professional detachment among themselves, but they also try to say the right things to the grieving families and the press--which creates a potentially fascinating friction. But when Clarvoe has Seth cross an ethical line in his interrogation of Corey, and both characters demonstrate hardly a shred of doubt about this development, credibility collapses.

Eileen T'Kaye, Anne Christianson and Sarah Lang play Seth's assistants as well as despairing relatives of the victims. While these transformations from scene to scene are interesting as performances, they don't serve the authenticity of the action.

Richard Augustine, who doesn't have to play two roles, creates the most intriguing portrait of any of the parents. Though his role is somewhat underwritten (the play is a long one-act), he's the one parent we'd like to know more about.

BE THERE

"Show and Tell," Stages, 1540 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends June 19. $15; Sunday matinees, pay-what-you-can. (323) 969-9239, Ext. 2. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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