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Reviews

7 MET SHORTS

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This collection of one-acts represents the work of authors whose full-length productions have been staged at this theatre previously. It's as workable a theme as any, but the evening feels for the most part like a collection of underdeveloped ideas: scenes that were supposed to eventually be surrounded by a larger piece or were, perhaps, excised from elsewhere but retained as a one-act out of writerly affection.

Probably the most developed is Drew Brody's Chess, in which an autistic child, quite impressively played by Zoë Ullett, quietly reveals a stunning affinity for the computer version of the game. This is all happening while her father (Matthew Glave) and grandmother (Jenny O'Hara) argue about, well, everything. Glave delivers a solid performance, while O'Hara, perhaps because she's working with her real daughter, radiates the full spectrum of maternity. Lisa James directs with a subtle hand, but once the realization sets in that we're dealing with a savant the piece is done, so of course the ramifications are just left hanging.

One wants to refer to Beth Henley's comical piece Tight Pants as being quirky, but this time James' direction is much broader, and it comes off as weird for the sake of being weird. About the most intriguing aspect is watching to see just how tightly Kristen Lowman can cinch her belt without severing her pelvis from her torso. Lowman also appears as an occasionally sane woman in the glacially paced Rehearsal, by Tom Grimes, directed by Stephanie Shroyer. There are hints of humor, but the ongoing analysis of the merits of various pharmaceuticals between Lowman's character and her brother (Time Winters) eventually numbs as effectively as the meds under discussion.

Juan and Sooz, a sort of Lady Chatterly's Crush, by Susan Emshwiller, has 1920s L.A. deb Sooz (Deborah Puette) putting the moves on the enticing gardener, Juan (Jorge-Luis Pallo). Both actors come off as surprisingly contemporary, though, and why costume designer Beth Morgan would put Sooz in a full flapper outfit just to drink lemonade in the backyard is beyond me. Puette is, however, nothing if not distilled charm in the curtain-raiser, Joshua Rebell's Black Tie Affairs, in which she plays a cater waiter at a wedding reception and two couples come to a grinding, early morning halt. There is a self-directed entry by L. Flint Esquerra that has no dialogue and looks like an acting exercise. Its salvation is, you spend a lot of time staring at Jeremy Gabriel, whose passing resemblance to a young George Clooney mitigates the experience considerably. The evening closes on a Sam Shepard entry, It Wasn't Proust. Jillian Crane's sweetly understated performance, along with her vibrantly dramatic hair, are all I recall.

"7 MET Shorts," presented by and at the MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., L.A. Tue.-Wed. 8 p.m. Apr. 20-May 19. $20. (323) 957-1152.

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