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THEATER | REVIEW

Writer navigates boy's imagination in 'Horse'

November 01, 2002|Daryl H. Miller | Times Staff Writer

Although barely into his teens, the central character in "The Visible Horse" has life all figured out. Of course, at his age, that means he's cracked the code to being cool. Pulling himself away from a skateboarding maneuver he's trying to perfect, he spells out an amusingly complex formula that involves popularity (10%), fashion and hygiene (10%), and attitude (80%). Example: " 'Simpsons' shirts are fashion, but you gotta wear a clean one every two days -- that's hygiene."

As Scott (Eddie Karr) chatters through the first minutes of this Appian Way production, he begins to reveal the deeper workings of his mind when he uses such phrases as: "If my dad was here...." While Scott's mother (Wendy Phillips) is wrangling him into bed, the reason for Dad's absence is finally spoken: He was killed in a car accident.

It's a wrenching topic, yet playwright Mary Lathrop keeps the mood surprisingly buoyant. Entering a boy's overactive imagination, she charts a world where monsters hide under beds, objects possess magical powers and feelings are equated with the guts that show through the clear-plastic skin of an anatomical model of a horse.

Under the nurturing care of Lisa James (the insightful director behind such productions as "Palladium Is Moving" and "The Water Children"), the story achieves a delicate balance between truth and theatricality.

Phillips comes across as a totally awesome mom who knows when to try to tease a smile out of her son, when to speak to him as an adult.

The weight of this story, though, rests on 15-year-old Karr's slender but remarkably strong shoulders. He is charmingly coltish in his direct addresses to the audience, and there's not a false moment in his dialogue scenes with Phillips. At a recent performance, his voice cracked into its boyish upper register while he was squealing at Phillips to stop hugging and kissing him. Adolescent bravado melted away just long enough to provide a glimpse of the child still lurking behind it.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

'The Visible Horse'

Where: Court Theatre, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 and 7 p.m.

Ends: Dec. 8

Price: $25.

Contact: (323) 655-TKTS

Running time: 2 hours

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