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Waving Goodbye

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Jamie Pachino doesn't have much new to say here. But, boy, does she say it beautifully. Set within the context of the delicately balanced, easily crushed world of creating art, the playwright's sometimes soapy tale of a teenager trying to get to know her estranged mother after the death of her father is elevated beyond its limitations by Pachino's poetic examination of the fragile, yet driven, emotional life of most artists, an existence too often spent continuously inventing themselves.

The commendable cast negotiates a striking sense of community within the confines of Pachino's flowery dialogue. Heather Fox gently mines a palpable vulnerability below the well-crafted survival instincts of the resentful 17-year-old protagonist. Michelle Duffy is exemplary as her long-absent mother; but, as obviously as she intellectually understands her character's plight, Duffy's physicality is often a tad broader and more overconfident than necessary to convey her emotional journey. Scott Cummins, as the dead father who unifies them, and Hope Shapiro's typically crusty friend-with-a-heart-of-gold offer superlative support, and the gloriously underplayed yet inventively quirky Damien Midkiff as the teen's sweetly smitten suitor, a guy facing his own abandonment issues, becomes her perfect foil. The gossamer bond forged between Midkiff and Fox makes the play's most indelible moments.

Also lifting the play to its graceful loftiness is Martin Bedoian's precision staging, making inspired use of the sweeping playing space, his vision enhanced by Sibyl Wickersheimer's unrestrictive set--easily evoking a New York loft space with only a few intersecting beams rising high into the cavernous heights of LATC's Theatre 3--as well as Dan Reed's sharply atmospheric lighting and a plaintive original score by Lindsay Jones.

The heartstrings pulled by this fresh new playwright could be instant death to this presentation but, as is discovered by the characters in her story, nothing is more instantly redemptive than art. As the early plays of Lanford Wilson or David Mamet, Pachino's work still needs a bit of refinement, but her voice rings out with an exciting clarity, heralding what will surely be a career to watch closely.

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