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LA Theater Review

Los Muertos

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For a group of four lost souls, life is filled with little else than pain, suffering, and desperate attempts to deaden that hurt by any means possible. For constantly strung-out junkies Blossom (Kate Ascott-Evans) and Edward (Sean Thomas), that means a heroin fix as frequently as others may drink coffee. For their hulking bear of a dealer, a Russian immigrant named Yevgeny (Timothy McNeil, who also penned this world premiere play), it means a dangerous, blazing hot temper stoked by a lifetime of alcohol abuse. And for the dying Amina (Denise Blasor), it means enduring the ravages of end-stage stomach cancer without medication, thanks to the merciless control tactics of her lover, Yevgeny.

But in spite of her death, which she knows is but a day or two away, Amina makes one final, frantic attempt to save their souls--and, in so doing, perhaps bring to her own heart some of the peace that has so eluded her, as well.

McNeil's incisive script effectively mixes moments of dark comedy with unsettling drama and fearsome images, all set within the slovenly L.A. apartment shared by Yevgeny and Amina (excellent production design by Seth Chandler and David Fofi, who also sharply directs; moody lighting by Maura McGuinness). The outstanding cast mesmerizes in its willingness to travel to uncomfortable, vulnerable places, no matter if it's demeaning sex, threats of violence, or shattering moments of tenderness. Thomas and Ascott-Evans astonish with their ability to unlock the chained-up hearts of these low-life junkies and give the audience not only a glimpse of what is possible but also the unexpected opportunity to feel compassion for them. McNeil is both terrifying and terrific as he struggles with his love for Amina and his grief at the loss of her. And Blasor particularly shines in scenes in which she attempts to bring love back into their lives.

Addiction in all of its crazy, active excesses is not easy stuff to watch, but this tremendous production makes the journey worth it.

Presented by David Fofi and Don Cesario at the Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Oct. 28-Dec. 4. (323) 960-7822.

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