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LA Theater Review

Rose Cottages

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This West Coast premiere was written by Bill Bozzone in the late 1980s. Like the mullet, some things from that decade are best left as distant memories. The foul-mouthed Rose, who runs slovenly rental cottages in Orlando and who has no particular appeal of her own, manages to turn drop-ins into family in this puzzler of a production.

Rose (Earnestine Phillips) is lounging on the premises when, as happens in plays, an inspector (Kabin Thomas on the night reviewed) arrives at the same time as a precocious 14-year-old (Graco Hernandez) presents himself at Rose's doorstep, offering to work for food. The inspector puts Rose Cottages on 72-hour probation, just enough time for the events of the play to unfold. Fortuitously, three vacationers arrive from New Jersey and rent a room: a newlywed couple (Aaron Hendry and Brynn Ann Kerin) and the groom's mother (Ellen Geer). Ma likes it here, even though it's not Miami, and she'd love to get an "a-pahhht-ment" here with room for all three of them. The couple, however, plans to ditch poor Ma.

As mama Jesse, Geer has a few moments of lazy acting—for instance not seeing the view from the cottages when supposedly looking—but, for the most part, she is pitch-perfect. Jesse is supposedly losing her mind, suggested to be as a result of her widowhood but also due to plot-point calamities. Geer turns ditz into charm, abandonment into a badge of honor.

Director Heidi Helen Davis doesn't help prod the evening along. Visual gaffes (characters should see each other and don't, Rose over-obsessively wipes the arms of a chair) spoil any momentum Geer tries to build. But Davis has done well with Hernandez, who at age 14 shows a solid sense of comedy.

Presented by and at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. July 30-Oct. 2. Repertory schedule. (310) 455-3723. www.theatricum.com.

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