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Review: 'The Red Room' feels cool rather than heated

October 04, 2012|By David C. Nichols
  • Chad Coe, left, Brad Blaisdell, Robert W. Arbogast, Janet Fontaine and Lane Compton in "The Red Room" at NoHo Arts Center.
Chad Coe, left, Brad Blaisdell, Robert W. Arbogast, Janet Fontaine and… (Rhett Benz )

“The Red Room” finds veteran writer Christopher Knopf elegizing golden age Hollywood via a once-prominent producer and his privileged brood. Although beautifully appointed, resolutely performed and not without promise, this locally topical family drama warrants reconsideration.

Our protagonist: disillusioned, one-handed Edwin (a determined Brad Blaisdell), his mogul-hood ending at the same time as the fading studio system. Rose (the heroic Janet Fontaine), Edwin’s long-suffering wife, strives to broach her epically demanding husband’s armor while defending him and their sons -- ne’er-do-well David (Chad Coe), opportunist Will (Robert W. Arbogast) and disconnected Johnny (Lane Compton) -- against each other.

Their internecine fracas in the title locale (effectively designed by Luke Moyer), spliced with flashbacks of young Edwin (Compton), constitutes the scenario. Under James J. Mellon’s direction, flashes of dramatic power emerge, notably the Act 1 rug-puller concerning the family’s home, and Knopf has certainly done era research.

Perhaps too much. Between countless dropped names and stylistic variables, content and form don’t exactly coalesce, here ornately over-explicated, there frustratingly oblique. The memory scenes with Edwin’s father (Don Savage), studio head (Jay Willick), writing crony (Alex Robert Holmes) and Berlin dalliance (an underused Karesa McElheny) aren’t automatically helpful. Nor do Edwin’s unsympathetic character and the inchoate ending earn their intended pathos.

Though worthy, “Red Room” needs more authentic human connection between its plot and its dysfunctional characters.

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“The Red Room,” NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 28. $30. (818) 508-7101 or www.thenohoartscenter.com. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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