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LA Theater Review

Knuckleball

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Though most viewers won't be too surprised by the double-whammy plot twists that occur halfway through William Whitehurst's quirky love story, it wouldn't be honorable to divulge them. The first revelation is slightly hard to believe; the second is so far-fetched it feels more suited to a silly soap opera than to a play attempting a provocative musing on modern relationships. Nonetheless, much of Whitehurst's dialogue zeroes in on hot-button contemporary issues with incisiveness and wit, and the efforts of director Anthony Nelson and two fine actors maximize the play's virtues.

It opens with a steamy sexual encounter between Ross (Mike Etzrodt) and Trish (Rosie Tisch) as they burst through the door of his apartment and get down to business. We soon discover they are very much in love. Ross pops the question. He's surprised at Trish's hesitation and interrogates her to get to the bottom of her qualms. As the taut hourlong piece plays out, Whitehurst astutely examines gender roles and trust issues in relationships, as well as the bigger picture: the mystical nature of genuine love. Sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing, Whitehurst's compelling seriocomedy explores the perilous tightrope that can exist between passion and potential violence, leading to explosive dramatic encounters. The best news in this production is the mesmerizing and courageous work of Etzrodt and Tisch, who deftly flesh out their characters, imbuing this edgy romance with honesty and emotional complexity, surmounting the contrived setup. They eloquently delineate the imperfections of these humans, as well as their overpowering need to love and to be loved.

This shoestring-budget theatre company in a shoebox-size facility pulls off superb scenic and lighting effects. The evocative, wonderfully lived-in set is credited to Nelson and Etzrodt. Anthony Aquilar created the atmospheric lighting and sound. Thankfully, jewel-box theatre is alive and well in L.A.

Presented by Casa 0101 and Los Angeles Theater Project at Casa 0101 Theater, 2009 E. First St., L.A. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Nov. 4-Dec. 18. (Dark weekends of Nov. 24 and Dec. 2.) (323) 263-7684.

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