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Review: 'The Bells of West 87th' rings in a cast of lovable oddballs

September 12, 2013|By F. Kathleen Foley
  • Cameron Meyer and James Marsters in "The Bells of West 87th" at Greenway Court Theatre.
Cameron Meyer and James Marsters in "The Bells of West 87th"… (Marla Halac )

Elin Hampton sets out to craft a crew of irritating yet lovable eccentrics in her world premiere comedy, “The Bells of West 87th” at the Greenway Court Theatre. But although the second act yields some long overdue laughs, the first act feels like an attenuated setup that never quite achieves the flagrantly offbeat tone the playwright so obviously intends.

Capable Cameron Meyer, who has taken over for original cast member Juliet Landau for the run of the show, plays the pivotal role of Molly, the much put-upon daughter of Ida (Carol Locatell), a hyper-critical kvetch, and Eli (Robert Towers), a frustrated magician who still longs for celebrity, despite the fact that he's pushing 80.

Almost 40, Molly feels suffocated by her overly protective parents, who clearly favor her married older sister, Maxine (perky Dagney Kerr). Molly has taken over her parents' business managing an apartment house on West 87th and now lives, reluctantly, with Ida, who broke up with Eli over four years ago. At her mother's behest, Molly has installed a series of bells in Eli's digs so that Ida can keep track of her hearing-impaired husband, who supposedly has no idea that Ida is living right next door.

When Molly starts dating Chris (James Marsters), a miniature golf manager she meets in a poetry class, she introduces him to her folks in a memorably disastrous family dinner that is as funny as it is fateful.

The cast is certainly winning, particularly Marsters, who rates high on the adorability scale. Unfortunately, Richard Pierce's staging is spatially confusing. (Is the kitchen open plan, or do those apparently closed walls open up at the director's whim?)

As for Hampton's play, one suspects that a little streamlining could bring the comedy more satisfyingly to the fore. Perhaps there's a clarion one-act hiding among these somewhat dissonant “Bells.”

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“The Bells of West 87th,” Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 13. $34. ($50 Sept. 15 and 29 only.) (323) 655-7679 x100. www.greenwayarts.org. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

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