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Review: 'Sweet Thursday' embraces Steinbeck's colorful characters

August 23, 2012|By F. Kathleen Foley
  • Joe McGovern and Lela Loren in "Sweet Thursday" at Pacific Resident Theatre.
Joe McGovern and Lela Loren in "Sweet Thursday" at Pacific Resident… (Vitor Martins )

Director Matt McKenzie fails to master the sprawl in “Sweet Thursday,” a world premiere adaptation of John Steinbeck’s 1954 novel, now at Pacific Resident Theatre.

A sequel to Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row,” “Thursday” centers, once again, on marine biologist Doc, introduced in the previous novel.  Just back from World War II, Doc seems to have lost his spark, prompting his old friends -- namely, the hookers and indigents of the Row -- to try and fix Doc up with Suzy (Lela Loren), the pretty new prostitute in town.

The basic plot is hardly earth-shaking.  To their credit, co-adaptors McKenzie and Robb Derringer embrace Steinbeck’s colorful coterie of characters like long-lost friends in their ambitious love-fest of an adaptation. Yet both lack a grain of sand in their creative third eye, that requisite irritant that would allow them a truly objective squint at their endeavor. 

What results is an attenuated hodge-podge with scene after scene -- including several inadequately rendered musical numbers -- that do little to further the action.

As for the staging, McKenzie clearly intends to fill the stage with an effusion of color and movement -- and often succeeds in that endeavor. 

There are some solid laughs and several of the performances are quite endearing, especially Jeff Doucette’s boozy Mack, the narrator of the piece, Dennis Madden’s wistful, mad Seer, and Eric John Scialo’s Hazel, a huge and simple-minded soul who takes drastic action to help Doc. But among the vivid -- even sometimes overplayed -- performances, Joe McGovern’s Doc seems strangely colorless, a glum straight man who doesn’t get the joke.

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“Sweet Thursday,” Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays.  Ends Sept. 30.  $20-$28.  (310) 822-8392.  www.PacificResidentTheatre.com.  Running time:  3 hours.

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