Absolutely Nothing In Common

Absolutely Nothing in Common
12 new plays in 2 series (A&B)
a kate west review
the Acting Company at the Laurelgrove Theatre Festival,
Hollywood Court Theatre at 6817 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood
Running Thursdays through Sundays, February 5 - March 13, 2005
Contact (323) 692-8200 and specify either Series A or B

If you've never been to that rather prominent landmark church with the AIDS ribbon on the corner of Franklin and Highland in Hollywood, but always been curious about it, now's your chance. The Acting Company at Laurelgrove presents twelve different opportunities in two series of plays (A & B, running different nights) to take a glimpse into moments of humanity. Twelve scenes, some very short and some long enough to be one acts, showcase little slices of life, depending on the style of each author.

One of the best pieces, running in Series B, is "Allergic to Walnuts," by Michelle Kholos and directed by Gina Collens, a fresh take on the difficulties of dating. Jack Heller and Darlene Young play an older couple who have finally gotten around to a first date. The dialogue is in a slightly absurdist style, but not enough to alienate the audience into not being able to relate to the human truth of the scene. The characters are delightfully odd and the scenario of the two musing about human foibles is greatly entertaining. Well written and economically directed, it is a nice, strong piece to open that evening.

Some scenes do not work as well, however, such as "CeCe and Joey" by Christina Hart and directed by Erik Passoja. Steve Altman and Rita Kane portray two lonely people who meet once a week, he for some company, she for money and end up arguing about breaking routine in a perplexingly pointless manner. The actors do what they can but it is not a very interesting piece.

"The Miraculous Day Quartet" by Mary Steelsmith and directed by Matt Kirkwood is the last piece in both series. With a different cast each night, it is a symphony of people arranged behind musical stands explaining all the random coincidences that prevented them from being present at a momentous event. We do not find out until later what that event was and although dramatic, it comes across rather predictable. Nonetheless, it is probably one of the pieces most often discussed post performance.

Other pieces include "Something for the Boys" by Louis Felder and directed by Jack Heller, "Heart to Heart" by Susan C. Hunter and directed by Sal Romeo, "Daddy's Girl" by Bonnie Summer and directed by Jack Heller, "Off-Hand" by Michel Wallerstein and directed by Portia Doubleday, "Modern Art" written and directed by Christina Hart, "Speed Dating 101" by Jeffrey Davis and directed by Barry Primus, "A Couple of Horses' Asses" by Dave Field and directed by Al Bonadies and "Telegraph Lady" by Steven Levi and directed by Christina Hart. This last piece occurs during World War II and Kara Pulcino is quite strong as the Jersey reformed prostitute (although her scene partner Matt Doherty is a bit weaker).

Actors include Joe Regelbrugge, Devon Reilly, Herschell Sparber, Rob Tepper, Darlene Young, Deborah Austin, Joy Claussen, Christina Hart, Tom O’Keefe, Kaitlin Doubleday, Nameer El-Kadi, Kara Pulcino, Jack Heller, Steve Altman, Rita Kane, Louise Davis, Erik Passoja, Brenda Ballard, Steve Franken, Matt Doherty and also range the gamut of weaker and stronger.

With subjects ranging from coping with Alzheimer's disease to the inevitable agonies of dating, either choice of evening should have at least one appealing thing for everyone. Just as some pieces are longer, some shorter, some are stronger and some weaker. Either way, it is commendable of The Acting Company to showcase new plays and playwrights and offer us a chance to catch up and coming new talent.

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