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THEATER REVIEW

Bruised, desperate and in love

Romance may lead to salvation in the lively new play 'Anything.'

December 07, 2007|F. Kathleen Foley | Special to The Times

An offbeat love story with humor and heart, "Anything," a new play by Tim McNeil, kicks off the Elephant Theatre Company's ambitious season of world premieres in high style.

Set designer Matt Maenpaa, working with set consultant Joel Daavid, has crafted a fittingly funky East Hollywood apartment building that affords a fly-on-the-wall glimpse into battered lives. Recently widowed Early Landry (McNeil) has just been relocated from Mississippi to Los Angeles by his uptight development executive sister, Laurette (Mim Drew), who intends to keep an eye on her brother after several suicide scares.

For Early, the apartment is just a layover until his next attempt. But Early's plans are interrupted when Freda Von Rhenburg (Louis Jacobs), the drug-addicted transvestite prostitute next door, explodes into his life like an illegal fireworks display. Both bruised and desperate, Freda and Early find purpose -- and ultimately salvation -- in their unlikely new romance.

Wonderful technical elements gild David Fofi's gem-like staging, which taps into the play's hilarity as well as its pathos. The stumbling block is not that the conservatively reared Early would fall in love with a transvestite; it's the fact that Early has so few apparent reservations about getting romantically involved with a street hooker that gives us pause and reduces the proceedings to a "Pretty Woman" fantasy that strains our credulity.

That's a minor glitch in an otherwise worthy new play, a bristly valentine to the unpredictability of the human heart.

The terrific cast, which includes David Franco, Jeremy Glazer, Max Williams, Robert Foster and Josh Breeding, is incapable of a false moment. McNeil is faultless as the stunned, sensitive Early, whose gentlemanly intelligence is a welcome relief from the typical redneck stereotype. But it is Jacobs' turn as Freda, a gaudy, valiant survivor of a disastrous life, that dazzles and delights us. It's a mesmerizing, uproarious performance not to be missed.

--

'Anything'

Where: Elephant/Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays,

7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Jan. 13

Price: $20 to $25

Contact: (323) 960-4410

Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes

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