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A FEMININE ENDING

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at South Coast Repertory

Feminism without a framework is rather detached, a sort of theoretical bias. In Sarah Treem's West Coast–premiere play, Amanda (Brooke Bloom) gives voice to feminist musings in monologues about her life among men by associating music and language with gender differences. She is a 25-year-old oboist, a graduate of a prestigious music school, looking ahead to composing great music but now writing advertising jingles for income. Her fiancé, Jack (Peter Katona), is on the cusp of becoming a huge rock star, and though she's happy for him, she recognizes that men's careers have a competitive edge.

In the midst of all this, her mother, Kim (Amy Aquino), summons her home to declare that she is leaving Amanda's father, David (Alan Blumenfeld), after years of apparently unsatisfying marriage. As Amanda ponders all the issues at hand, a goofy boyfriend from high school (Jedadiah Schultz) turns up, making her re-examine her future. The plot isn't exactly new territory, but Treem's skill at storytelling and musical metaphors make the writing fresh, witty, and engaging.

Bloom brings endearing charm to the young woman trying to find her place in the world. Aquino is also outstanding as the mother whose hopes for her daughter's freedom from male domination seem to be dying. Katona plays Amanda's lover with youthful energy, and Schultz's comic timing makes his eccentricity disarming. Blumenfeld's understated portrayal of David gives the character's idiosyncratic behavior authenticity.

Director Timothy Douglas keeps Treem's narrative flowing with subtlety and good humor, preventing the characters from being caricatures. Tony Cisek's indigo set, skillfully lighted by Peter Maradudin, has numerous doors and windows opening up to Amanda's world.

Treem has an innate sense of drama and comedy translated into theatricality. Her characters are likable even in their failings, and the outcome of Amanda's story is artistic and clever.

Presented by and at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa. Tue.-Fri. 7:45 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 2 & 7:45 p.m. Jan. 11-27. (714) 708-5555. www.scr.org.

Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann

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