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BLITZKRIEG

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OK, adrenaline junkies and people who like theatre that raises your heart rate a thump or two beyond comfortable: Actor's Circle Theatre has the play for you. Brooke Berdis' work, directed by Arthur Mendoza, starts out a little slow and seemingly predictable. Then there's a clap of thunder, the lights go out, and, when they come back on, the dynamic onstage is much different. Though occasionally unpolished, Blitzkrieg is like a good, edge-of-your-seat horror film.

Set in comfortable suburbia, the play takes place in one night as an upscale couple, Paul and Maria (Stuart McKinney and Monica Garcia), and a trailer trash couple, Ron and Dina (Doug Purdy and Berdis), meet for the first time to discuss the adoption of Dina's baby, which they have arranged over the Internet. Needless to say, complications ensue as a storm brews outside. At first, when Ron and Dina turn to violence, it feels like familiar territory: Psychos From Deliverance Terrorizing Yuppies should be an award category of its own. Thankfully, Berdis is smart enough to make sure this changes fast.

The four actors give solid and consistent performances; Berdis' twitchy nutcase Dina and Purdy's about-to-snap Ron are particularly fun. Garcia and McKinney, who have the more reserved roles (at first), hold their own against their counterparts' more engaging antics, and Mendoza's direction keeps the action moving smoothly, even through some of the more frantic parts.

Overall, Berdis' script is strong, with interjections and one-liners that are alternately hilarious and insightful. She also has a good sense of what people reveal under stress, and the character's motivations in this play are clear and constantly evolving, which keeps it psychologically engaging even while our hearts are pounding. At times the script does feel like it revisits things a few too many times—Ron and Dina can't seem to get off the subjects of Maria's ethnicity or Paul's stutter and non-functioning penis. They also have a slight tendency to move into the overly familiar hick-savant routine, in which their observations of their milieu are delivered in phrasing worthy of Ivy League professors. Still, occasional lapses aside, Berdis' script is smart, jolting, and satisfying, finally asking some questions that many of us have been stewing over for a long time: What kind of people sell children on the Internet, and what kind of people buy them? Really, really messed up people, that's who.

Joel Daavid's set design—a lush, Pottery Barn kind of home—is the perfect setting for this play about instant chaos: simultaneously perfectly placid and respectable, and ripe for destruction.

"Blitzkrieg," presented by and at the Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hollywood. Thurs.-Sun. 8 p.m. June 14-July 22. $15. (818) 771-8100.

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