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LA Theater Review

11 X 8 (Series A)

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Written, directed, and performed exclusively by Theatre East members, this ambitious two-part one-act festival offers 11 short plays showcasing the talents of the company's membership at large. Each of the opening Series A pieces is promising in its own right, yet none is quite ready for prime-time viewing. The evening begins with Trish Harnetiaux's "Devon and Josh Are New Anchors," featuring Les Feltmate and Jeremy Luke as cable news hosts willing to go to any length -- including demonstrating the annihilating power of the chicest suicide-bomber apparel -- to ensure good ratings. As delightfully game as these actors are and as cleverly directed by Peg Shirley, hitting that red button cannot come soon enough.

There's no red button for Leif E. Gantvoort's "Holiest of Holies" or Vince McKewin's "Autoerotica," the former initially funny but suffering from one-joke syndrome and the latter a thinly veiled excuse for rampant misogyny disguised as a comic monologue, introducing a lingerie-clad J.C. Wendel as a Beverly Hills-adjacent climber, reminiscing about mistakenly losing her virginity to the gearshift of an Austin Healy 3000. Obviously written and directed from a testosterone-heavy male perspective, it's difficult to surmise if Wendel's pregnant pauses are the choice of director Peter Haskell or an understandable discomfort with her lines.

The best piece is also written by McKewin and dependent on a heap of sexual innuendo, but it features a committed comedic tour de force by Haskell as Bob, a loyal family dog contented with his "Leash on Life." Although there's a puzzling subplot about his mistress' murderous intent toward her philandering husband, it's mostly about ol' Bob, who'd rather stare into his owner's eyes as she pats his head than take a poke at a professional breeder Collie (the hilariously tail-wagging Stacey Miller). Haskell is wonderful, providing a textbook example of a veteran performer's true commitment to character at any cost, even if it means losing all semblance of dignity or chompin' down on a few Milk-Bones.

A creative endeavor such as this is something to encourage as a platform for a theatre company's workshop process, but to charge $17 for the public to attend 75 minutes of something this raw and unfinished is a questionable decision. Next time Theatre East mounts its entertaining but inconsistent festival of original playlets, the show should be offered for free or at a greatly reduced admission price for obliging patrons willing to champion the company's commendably determined efforts.

Presented by Theatre East at the Lex,

6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood.

Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Series A: Thu.-Fri. 8 p.m. Jun. 28-Jul. 13, Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Jul. 21-Aug. 5. Series B: Wed. 8 p.m. Jun. 20 & Jul. 18; Thu.-Fri. 8 p.m. Jul. 20-Aug. 3; Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Jul. 1-15. Jun. 20-Aug. 5; Additional performances: Aug. 10-11, Aug. 17-18.

(323) 960-7740. www.plays411.com/11x8.

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