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LA Theater Review

Last Call at Moby Dick's

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What happens when a group of high school friends reunite many years later at their old favorite hangout? When it comes to Ed Marill's new play, the simple answer is "not much" -- and certainly nothing interesting. For nearly two hours, a cast of seven, the quality of whose performances range wildly, muddle through a disjointed and uninspired story filled with "remember when" bits of dialogue. Director Mark L. Taylor worsens matters by rarely driving the pace above a crawl. Even when a couple of actors rise above Marill's poor script, the production is filled with issues of timing, characterization, and tech elements, rendering most of those moments ineffective.

The setting is Moby Dick's, a bar in Delray Beach, Fla., that is now owned by Mike (Marill). His South Carolina-born wife, Caroline (Stacy Keanan), wants Mike to sell the struggling establishment so they can move back to Charleston. But Mike can't let go of the past, which is evident with the arrival of his pals, including drug-dealing Trip (Steven J. Pershing), lesbian nurse Penny (Cori Clark Nelson), Brooke (Amy Motta), and their now-famous TV-star friend Jeff (Krishna Le Fan). The rest of the night deals with old passions and unresolved conflicts, most of which are played out while the characters are supposedly quite high and drunk.

Keanan and Nelson supply the few bright spots. With an honest Southern accent and visible internal angst, Keanan provides texture to a character that is sharply two-dimensional. When Caroline finally breaks down, Keanan's tears and visible despair create one of the evening's few dramatic moments. Likewise, Nelson is able to turn an insipid monologue, about first discovering her feelings for another woman, into an interesting confession. The remaining cast is either unprepared or unable to elevate the material, in particular Marill, who seems the least familiar with his own script.

Taylor's blocking lacks motivation, and he doesn't create an air of realism when his characters are supposedly having a freewheeling conversation. Instead, actors seem confused about where to stand and when to speak their lines. The brightest spot is Lisa D. Lechuga's set: a rustic tavern complete with a bar made of a surfboard and faux driftwood. The floors, painted to suggest wood planks, and the paneling along the theatre walls are just two of several detailed touches. If the walls could talk, they likely would have more interesting things to say than these characters do.

Presented by Grain of Sand Productions at the McCadden Theatre,

1157 N. McCadden Pl., Hollywood.

Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Jun. 21-Jul. 21.

(323) 960-5521. www.plays411.com/mobydicks.

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