It's one thing when a young theatre company of 20-year-old artists, say, fresh out of college, puts together an interesting evening of new works by a raw, emerging playwright. It's often exciting and intriguing theatre, as in, "Hmm. What are these guys going to do next?" But it's another thing when a veteran theatre company of seasoned pros who've established their reputation by putting risky, ballsy stuff out there presents an evening of meandering new works by a gifted playwright who's got a track record. It's pretty much fine and forgettable theatre. As in, "What are these guys doing?"
This latter is unfortunately the case with Theatre of NOTE's latest offering, Famous Blue, a collection of short plays by actor-writer Phinneas Kiyomura. Directors Andy Mitton and Sam Roberts (and designers Dan Jenkins, Seth Chandler, and Courtney Hoffman) work overtime in an effort to shape these confused pieces into a coherent whole, without much success. The playwright stretches himself thin exploring family ties, childhood crimes, animal urges, and unexamined choices without reaching anywhere uncharted. Yet Mitton and Roberts and the ensemble of mostly shoeless, color-coded actors do a fantastic job finding humor in and adding layers to material that's all over the map. McKerrin Kelly is a dynamite presence, whether she's dry-humping a relative or searching for the ultimate escape; the fabulously quirky Nicholas S. Williams goes for broke in each of his motley roles. David Wilcox, Theresa Walsh, and Kiyomura are appealing and engaging, and Scott McKinley provides the evening's showstopper as a man of God with a taste for red meat.
So it's not that Famous Blue is particularly awful, it's just that these 11 plays aren't particularly notable, and in the hands of such talented artists, it's kind of a shame.
Presented by and at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Aug. 4-Sep. 16. (323) 856-8611.