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EVERYBODY DIES

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These five one-acts gently and comically remind us that one never knows which one is the last dance before the abyss. Let us pass quickly by the first piece, which features three ostriches that appear to be in danger of little more than being bitch-slapped by a cheetah (albeit to the witty choreography of Nancy Lee), and begin with David J. Lee's offering, "In Life & in Death," which presents Shiva (a consummately officious Rick Lee) as the petty bureaucrat who handles the shuttling of souls on and off the wheel of life. Lee, and particularly his extra arms (courtesy of Samantha Quan), are ridiculous in the best way. The waiting-room reacquaintance of two soul mates, the loutish Zach (Randall Park) and the Nirvana-eligible Amy (an incredibly charming Quan) sets up a later piece, "Imminent Collision," written by Michael Golamco, in which the same two souls, in later avatars, face down the apocalypse together. Park is allowed to finally show the charisma behind the cad and is quite winning as his attempt at one last hookup turns into a bit of character study.

Nancy Lee, in "Night of the Living Dead," plays an overprotective Korean-American mother who micromanages her son's Halloween haul, even though the lad, adroitly embodied by David J. Lee, keeps reminding her he's 24. At first it appears as if the mother is going to be played merely for laughs as she skillfully mangles every syllable into an unexpected punch line, but Lee ends up rendering a rather full and touching character for the short format. Her costume is a low-key triumph for designers Vivian Bang and Amy Domjan. The evening ends on Park's sweet and somewhat epic kung-fu farce, "Wang Chung," in which Eddie Shin's brilliantly executed effeminate-but-not-gay character is ripe for transplanting to the next tour of M. Butterfly, and Tim Chiou, as the decidedly simple Golo, is alone able to cut through the clutter and understand Wang Chung, the martial art of love. Chiou does this in so disarming a fashion that the audience member is rather surprised, after so much silliness, to be left both chuckling and a touch misty.

"Everybody Dies," presented by Propergander at The Actor's Playpen, 1514 N. Gardner St., West Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. May 26-July 2. $12-15. (310) 713-9322.

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