Echoes of John Osborne permeate "Noise," receiving its U.S. premiere by the Furious Theatre in Pasadena. Alex Jones' slashing 1997 drama of the perils of economic depression frequently suggests a latter-day "Look Back in Anger."
It begins with teenage factory worker Dan (Damaso Rodriquez) bringing pregnant bride Becky (Vonessa Martin) to their new home, a shoddy Black Country government housing flat (strikingly designed by Shawn Lee).
The grimy comic atmosphere soon darkens, as blaring techno music from next door awakens the couple on their first night out and continually thereafter. An official appeal to the authorities brings their neighbor, dashing slacker Matt (James C. Leary), in search of rapprochement while Dan is at work.
This leads to harrowing developments symbolizing the lost innocence of post-Thatcher England.
Director Sara Hennessy marshals her forces with assurance. Besides Lee, the solid design roster features notable contributions from Christie Wright's lighting and Eric Pargac's sound, and the cast is estimable, managing the Birmingham dialects without sacrificing intelligibility.
Rodriguez and Martin, wisely avoiding teen mannerisms, have an easy chemistry that renders their plight doubly poignant. Leary conceals his imbalance beneath layers of roughhewn charisma, recalling the young Terrence Mann.
Jones' impressive architecture occasionally tips the sociological hat, and the intermission is questionable, halting the accelerating tension. These are quibbles, though, as the nail-biting intensity of the disturbing climax demonstrates the acute impact this haunting work achieves.
David C. Nichols
"Noise," Furious Theatre at Armory Northwest, 965 N. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena. Fridays-Sundays, 8:30 p.m. Ends July 21. $15.00. (818) 679-8854. Mature audiences. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
'Fluffy Bunnies' Flirts With the Edge
Dating--eeeewww. Like "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the off-Broadway musical revue that played downstairs at the Coronet Theater in 1998, and "Maybe Baby, It's You," which closed in May upstairs at the Coronet, "Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies" takes the stage to examine the mating rituals of attractive young heterosexuals who don't seem to have much to do with their days but agonize over sex or the lack thereof.
Although the first two shows play it safe with a dose of greeting-card schmaltz, the screamingly funny "Fluffy Bunnies," a new comedy written and directed by Matt Chaffee at Hollywood's Zoo Theatre, hops much closer to the edge of desperation, sending up, rather than reveling in, sitcom platitudes.
Against a set with absurd cartoons of outsized happy rabbits looming through every window, these "fluffy bunnies" are frolicking not among daisies but among landmines--and there's as much horror as humor in wondering whether they'll make it through with their sanity intact.
Though raunchier and more down-and-dirty than anything in "I Love You, You're Perfect" or "Maybe Baby," "Fluffy Bunnies" seems more plaintively honest than deliberately gratuitous. And, amid all the graphic sexual specificity, the three guys and a girl central to this story become obsessed with an age-old philosophical question: whether women can be divided into two camps, virgins and whores.
This line of inquiry would be notably insulting if it didn't lead to so much more angst among the male characters than the women, who use the guys' obsession with knowing the answer to the has-she-or-hasn't-she question to skillfully mess with their minds, reducing them to a babbling, pleading, satisfying incoherence.
"Fluffy Bunnies" doesn't really answer the virgin-whore question--but when in doubt, why not do a big production number? Act 2 opens with just such a brilliantly out-of-place bit of Terpsichore, choreographed by lead dancer Sangini Majmudar, who plays a hilariously unhinged romantic in the first act, then seizes the moment to illuminate the lunacy of modern-day dating through dance.
"Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies," Zoo Theatre, 1611 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays, through July 28. $14. 323-460-4233. Running time: 2 hours.
'Three Grooms and Bride' Emphasizes the Personal
For two couples--one gay, one straight--an attempt to cut costs by doubling up on their marriage ceremonies turns into "the 'Waterworld' of wedding parties" in Gary Goldstein's agreeable new comedy, "Three Grooms and a Bride," at West Hollywood's Coast Playhouse.
As in his previous works, Goldstein's strengths as a playwright are his facility with likable characters and warm, sympathetic humor--which should not be confused with sentimentality.