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BEAUTIFUL BODIES

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As Jessie (Jennifer Ruckman) dashes about her apartment making hurried preparations and Cornish game hens, two things are clear: A baby shower is imminent, and the woman has the eyes of a cat, as the whole thing takes place in near darkness. The ladies arrive in due course and Laura Shaine Cunningham's script plays out as one has come to expect. In the age-old tradition, nobody's life is what it initially seems, unkind things get said, and it ends in, literally, a group hug.

A show like this needs either chemistry or impeccable pacing. There's a bit of the former but only a smattering of the latter as directed by William Lewis, who brings this girly comedy in at just under two and a half hours. The real coup is in the casting. Paula Eliott, as the pulled-together Martha who sees life in terms of Manhattan real estate, and Amy Larion, as the mother-to-be whose planning consists largely of trusting the universe, bring vitality to their every moment onstage. Eliott weighs each of her lines to the milligram before delivery, making even the most casual murmur delivered to the toes of her stylish shoes an armed missile. She finds a worthy adversary in Larion, who conveys an indefinable and highly appealing quality of being unshakeably centered and at peace without being smug about it. In the requisite role of slightly-chunky-sassy-redhead Nina, Kiva Jump does fine work, but the role is thankless. Jessica MacArthur overplays her hand as the lush, in every sense of the word, Sue Carole, the kind of sloppy drunk who needs to be sent home. As Zoloft model Lisbeth, Megan Bello has a vexing way of closing her eyes and tilting her face up before delivering her lines in a whispery lisp. It plays like the beatification of Hello Kitty (if Kitty had a mouth, of course). Lewis and Scott Vandrick have designed a quirky, and exceedingly small, Manhattan apartment, with its low window and elevator-only access. How six dressed-up women were supposed to consume bone-in fowl in the space remains a mystery.

"Beautiful Bodies," presented by Attic Theatre Ensemble at Attic Theatre & Film Centre, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A. Fri. 8 pm., Sat. 5 pm. Jan. 14-Feb. 12. $20. (323) 525-0600, ext. 2.

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