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January 29, 2004



Theater Reviews

 

Dirty Laundry

HOLLYWOOD, CA - About eighty-five minutes into "Dirty Laundry," now playing at Hudson Theatres, the play's two principle characters come to grips with one of the most painful dilemmas a husband and wife could ever have to face.  All of the plot's mistaken identity and confusion have been mercifully laid to rest, and Stan and Donna for the first time grapple honestly with their situation.  The confrontation is poignant, believable--even powerful.

            But that's eighty-five minutes into a ninety minute play.  Up to that point "Dirty Laundry" has spent its energies trying to make frothy fun out of one character's unfaithfulness, another's betrayal of religious vows, an immigrant's misuse of the English language, and a woman's leaping past the painfully obvious to conclude the improbable over and over and over. 

      I realize these are all staples of comedy.  But it's amazing how tiresome they can be when the plot they serve is in fact pretty disturbing.  The sitcom soapbubble bursts quickly when you know that sooner or later the truth has to come out and a rather likable character is going to be deeply wounded, if not destroyed.

      In his program notes playwright George Albertella claims "long years" of experience as a psychotherapist.  That background serves him well in crafting recognizable characters with some complexity, yet adequate motivation.  

 

But the fact that he's "known some of the characters" in his private practice might not have been a good enough reason for Albertella to try and turn their troubles into a fun evening at the theatre. 

       The central dilemma is just not the stuff of light comedy.  Some of Albertella's writing is interesting, as in the flashback seduction sequences.  Too many of the laugh lines, though, are weak, coming not out of the situation so much as the "every third line must be funny" rule of sketch comedy.  We get too much of characters being dumb and not enough of characters being witty.  I would suggest Mr. Albertella aspire to the Neil Simon of "Prisoner of Second Avenue," rather than the Neil Simon of "Your Show of Shows."

            The acting ensemble brings energy and commitment to the proceedings, its work well staged by director Steven Benson, clearly a solid pro.  Lee Anne Moore as Donna calls the gifted Charlotte Rae to mind, and I agree with her bio's claim that she's "born for television."  

       Paul Luongo has the look of a young Ricardo Montalban, and is perfectly cast.  Ruben Dario is a little unfocused, but promising, with a funny Bronson Pinchot sort of nowhere-in-particular accent.  Marc Ian Sklar is probably miscast physically, but works hard in the role of Stan.  His best moment is that brief poignance near the end, which is sadly done in by a flippant tag ending.

 

         

     Chromolume Theatre Company has made an odd choice of material for its maiden production.  "Dirty Laundry" has its moments, and also its problems.  But there's a lot of talent in place, a fine technical realization of the piece, and promise galore.  Now if they could just spell the playwright's name correctly on the program cover . - G.R. White

Runs January 23rd  through March 7th  with performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm.   Tickets are $18, $5 off for Students and Sr., there are no assigned seats.  Printable view

For information and reservations, call (323) 960-7745.

Get information & buy tickets on-line at www.plays411.com

 

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