Corryn Cummins and Derek Manson in "The Bewildered Herd." (Joel Daavid )
Like the man said, always be closing. In Cody Henderson's "The Bewildered Herd," now at Greenway Arts Alliance, everyone's after someone else's mental real estate. When he's not helping win an election, slick consultant Bingo (John Getz) is trying to keep his disaffected wife (Trace Turville) from divorcing him and his college-dropout daughter (Corryn Cummins) from running off with a deadbeat rocker (Derek Manson). Meanwhile, Grandma (Lisa Richards) smilingly insists that Bingo's father is still alive and worth loving. Truth is a slippery business, and may the best pitch win.
"Mad Men" has started its fifth season, and "House of Lies" has been renewed, so it's tough to say something fresh about tastemakers and spin doctors; the play's soapboxing feels recycled. Yet "Herd" finds fertile ground exploring the insidious ways in which people convince each other on the most intimate of levels.
Henderson can take an ordinary scene -- say, making pancakes -- in weird, unexpected directions, especially when it's underscored by John Zalewski's unnerving sound design. But these arresting moments don't quite add up, and the play as a whole feels unfocused. (Among other things, I was confused by Susan Gratch's dowdy living room set -- isn't Bingo doing well, or at least gainfully employed? Wouldn't his surroundings be more polished?)
Still, director Laurie Woolery's production features an excellent cast, with Richards giving a tart, moving performance as a befuddled widow, Getz every inch the smooth operative, and Cummins a prickly innocent. Henderson makes their confusion oddly compelling.
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"The Bewildered Herd" Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends May 6. $24. Contact: (323) 655-7679, Ext. 100 or www.greenwayarts.tix.com. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.