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LA Theater Review

Always...But Not Forever

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Women often get a bad rap in the theatre. Nastily familiar epithets are sometimes flung about with such male-chauvinist abandon that one wonders what God had in mind when she created women. Henry Jaglom, known as a women's writer, has no such chip on his shoulder. Several of his screenplays center on female characters; many of his actors are members of a collegial group who inspire, as well as appear in, several of his movies.

The movie Always...But Not Forever, released in 1985, was therapy for Jaglom's grief at his failed marriage to his then-leading lady. In 2007, his adaptation of the screenplay was inspired by Tanna Frederick, the star of two of his recent films, whose talent gave Jaglom the impetus to switch the lead characters in the play from a wife who was trying to leave her husband, to a husband who wanted out of his marriage.

David O'Donnell is cuddly cute as Jack, a playwright manqué who can't solve his plot problems; Frederick gives a sympathetic, bubbly, frantic but honest turn as the lovely scorned wife, Dina, who's not ready to hang up her title. After an empathetic Michael Fairman, as a notary, balks at signing the divorce papers, a weekend house party brings together good friends: new mom but no-way-desperate housewife Lucy (a serenely Madonna-like Kelly DeSarla); husband Eddie (amusingly played by Bryan Callen), chafing at the baby bit; free spirit Peggy (a breezy and delightful Samantha Sloyan); and her way-out boyfriend-du-jour Maxwell (Brent David Fraser as an anachronistic weirdo).

There are no murky depths here, but there's good, true-to-life talk. Jaglom's writing always makes it real; he loves people in groups. A couple of surprises -- we'll not go into detail about the chocolate bath -- and good laughs provide an all-around fun evening.

If there's a suspicion that the Zeitgeist smacks of the 1970s and '80s, not the 2007s, well, get over it. Gary Imhoff's smart direction keeps everything on the upside of funny, on Chris Stone's sophisticated set, cleanly lighted by Edward Cha. And, of course, the reiteration of Irving Berlin's nostalgic "I'll Be Loving You Always" provides the romance.

Presented by Alexandra Guarnieri and the Rainbow Theatre Company at Edgemar Center for the Arts,

2437 Main St., Santa Monica.

Fri.-Sat. 7:30 p.m., Sun. 5:30 p.m. Dark Nov. 23-25. Oct. 19-Dec. 22.

(310) 392-7327. www.edgemar.org.

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