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'Bunbury' draws from classics

October 07, 2005|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

In "Bunbury," playwright Tom Jacobson fashions a character for Oscar Wilde's unseen plot device from "The Importance of Being Earnest" and sends him into giddy collision with various coevals from classic plays. Merely that aspect of this ingenious fantasia -- "A serious play for trivial people" -- will seduce theater buffs.

Bathed in designer Henry Sume's moony lighting, Bunbury (Sean Wing) begins as lily-wielding Wildean pastiche. Trading epigrams with valet Hartley (Scot M. Burklin), Bunbury invokes Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and its mysterious Rosaline. Whereupon that Renaissance maiden (Ann Noble) arrives, spewing alliterative iambic pentameter worthy of Tom Stoppard.

Faced with Romeo's pining ex, Bunbury, whose own love dares not speak its name, succumbs to verse and concern over nonexistence. Away they go, from Shropshire and Verona to the 20th century on Sibyl Wickersheimer's emblematic set, changing tragic outcomes and altering more than just fiction.

Further details would diminish "Bunbury," which incorporates the greats with delightful wit.

If Jacobson's final giant leap into allegory feels overt, he lands its moving point. So does director Mark Bringelson's suave Road Theatre Company production. Samantha Wright's plush costumes, David B. Marling's ambient sounds and Lila Waters' detailed props keep focus sharp. Tony Urbano and Carl Johnson supply spry puppets.

The sparkling cast inhales each fractal test, starting with Wing's uncanny Bunbury, a living Aubrey Beardsley drawing. Besides Noble and Burklin, Zach Dulli, Stephanie Stearns and Steven Reisberg show laudable range, and Peggy Billo and Michael Dempsey are marvelous mature prototypes. Currently, only "She Stoops to Comedy" at the Evidence Room touches "Bunbury's" belief in the alchemical power of dramaturgy. Any quibbles are seriously trivial.



Where: Road Theatre Company at Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Dark on Nov. 24

Ends: Dec. 4

Price: $20

Contact: (866) 811-4111

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

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