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Pals Sitting Around Talking About 'Love'

August 24, 2001|F. Kathleen Foley

Some might think it hubris that Scott Caan, son of actor James Caan, would elect to write, direct and star in "Almost Love," a one-act comedy about a young man recovering from heartbreak with the help of his blundering best pal. The inevitable question arises: Will the 24-year-old Caan, a rising film actor, have the craft to pull off such an ambitious stunt in a medium where there are no retakes?

Judging from the play's production at Playhouse West, Orson Welles can rest easy. But while Caan is certainly no prodigy, he does have a sufficiently light touch and an ear for comically circuitous dialogue that make "Almost Love" consistently entertaining.

And when it comes to a plot this evanescent, the importance of a light touch cannot be overestimated.

Caan plays Danny, a young man floored by his recent breakup with his longtime girlfriend. Val Lauren, Caan's co-director, is Danny's wheeler-dealer buddy Erik, who is secretly thrilled to welcome Danny back to the ranks of the slacker singles scene.

When it comes to women, these guys are polar opposites. Danny longs for permanence and commitment; Erik craves spurious sex--and lots of it. Therein lies much of the play's humor, and part of its problem as well. The bulk of the action consists of Danny and Erik's propulsive chatter about everything from steamy sex encounters to the existence of God--desultory byplay that can strain one's patience to the breaking point.

However, the spontaneous chemistry between Caan and Lauren charms more often than not, and although their characters' conversation may ramble, it is tautly executed.

The comic tempo shifts into high gear with the arrival of Star (sinuously funny Laura Katz), a coke-snorting stripper whom Erik has sprung on Danny as a surprise "gift."

By play's end, the locker-room sensibility sweetly inverts itself, as "Love" morphs from high-spirited sex comedy into a contrived affirmation of monogamy. Caan delivers this final "message" with an uncharacteristically heavy hand--a minor failing amid the general deftness.

*

"Almost Love," Playhouse West, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Saturday, 8 p.m; Sunday, 7 p.m.; Sept 9, 16 and 23, 7 p.m.; Sept. 15 and 22, 8 p.m. Donation. (310) 550-3536. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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