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Is Winona a Symptom of Broader Troubles?

Theater Beat

July 19, 2002|David C. Nichols

The toll of celebrity upon the sensitive psyche forms the crux of "My Name Is Winona and I'm a Shoplifter," playing Mondays at the Zephyr Theatre. Michael Kearns' latest fantasia takes Winona Ryder, nee Winona Laura Horowitz, through a stream-of-consciousness examination of her unconventional life and career.

Using the church setting for current Zephyr offering "Southern Baptist Sissies," Kearns places "Noni" (Rex Lee) in a 12-step meeting. We first encounter her offstage, spewing profanities and the Serenity Prayer. Then, laden with shopping bags, most prominently from Saks Fifth Avenue, she enters and begins sharing her considerable baggage.

Kearns posits that Ryder's troubles mirror the culture's, drawing corollaries as far afield as Ryder's real-life godfather Timothy Leary to the murder of Polly Klaas. This tabloid-style introspection is most effective when skewering Hollywood hypocrisy, with the fascinating recurring cell phone conversations and tickling sendups of David Letterman's Top 10 lists.

Lee, resembling Margaret Cho as a Beverly Center matron, is low on technique and his slender vocal range only intermittently registers. The piece is likewise inconclusive, failing to reach the attempted merge of sympathy and satire. Kearns' skill at lacerating comment notwithstanding, "Winona" is a promising work-in-progress that needs to keep working the steps.

*

David C. Nichols

"My Name Is Winona and I'm a Shoplifter," Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A. Mondays, 8 p.m. Ends Aug. 5. Beginning Aug. 9, Theatre A at Studio A, 2306 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake. Fridays, 8 p.m. Ends Aug. 30. $9.99.

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