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Last Chance

June 27, 2002|Philip Brandes

Theater

The Exonerated--To speak of life-or-death stakes in "The Exonerated" is, for once, no exaggeration. Created and directed by New York-based Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen from interviews they conducted with former death-row inmates whose wrongful convictions were eventually overturned, a riveting Actors' Gang staging examines capital punishment and the justice system in chilling terms. By depicting the stories of six innocent people (out of 100 similar cases and rising), this devastating docudrama proves more profound and persuasive than any rhetorical pitch to abstract moral principles. In some respects, Blank and Jensen's effort was simplified by the drama inherent in the facts. Nevertheless, the work benefits from the skillful way the stories are interwoven and paced to build tension and momentum. Rising to the importance of their task, a talented Actors' Gang ensemble makes the most of this charged material.

Philip Brandes

*

Ends Sunday at the Actors' Gang Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 465-0566, Ext. 15.

Also closing this weekend:

The Shape of Things--Neil LaBute's hard-edged account of a turbulent college romance that's a parable about contemporary culture ends Sunday at the Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, (949) 497-2787.

Uncle Vanya--Chekhov's 1897 classic beautifully performed by a near-perfect cast, including a very funny Orson Bean, ends Sunday at the Pacific Resident Theatre, 703-707 Venice Blvd., Venice, (310) 822-8392.

All's Kool That Ends Kool--Troubadour Theatre Company's spoof of Shakespeare's "All's Well That Ends Well," set to the strains of Kool & the Gang tunes ends Saturday at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center, 1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton, (714) 741-9555.

Sorrows and Rejoicings--Another of Athol Fugard's elegant meditations on the personal cost of apartheid that offers enduring images of a beautiful, cruel land even as it fails to gather much steam. It ends Sunday at the Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A., (213) 628-2772.

Crazyface--Clive Barker's dystopian parable, impressively realized by director/designer Aaron Francis and his large cast, ends Saturday at the Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, L.A., (310) 281-8337.

Criminal Minds--Energetically staged by Hope Alexander, Robin Swicord's entertaining but insubstantial play about a trio of offbeat criminals holed up in an off-season Florida miniature golf facility devolves into predictable crisis. Ends Sunday at the El Portal Theatre, Circle Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (818) 508-8823.

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