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LA Theater Review

Sona Tera Roman Hess

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Playwright Dennis Miles imaginatively blends classical styles -- from magic realism to Greek tragedy -- to illuminate universal truths. His heartrending seriocomic fable explores the ravages of war, loyalty and betrayal among loved ones, and the primal need for family and home. The locale isn't specified, and the action occurs "sometime in the past," yet the play strongly evokes Mexican folklore. Director Kiff Scholl helms a gorgeously theatrical premiere rendition.

An ethereal ambience is immediately evident when elderly widow Sona (Kathleen Mary Carthy) hints to the audience that clouds of ill fortune hover over her household. Yet the grimness is tempered by the redemptive joy she exudes and her belief that she's immortal. Sona's daughter Tera (Dawn Greenidge), second wife of Roman (Greg Wall), contritely returns to the family household following a long absence, along with Roman's son Hess (Ian Crossland). Hess and his stepmother had betrayed Roman, falling in love and running off together, and they're now expecting a child. When war breaks out and Hess considers enlisting, the prevailing omens of doom begin to appear well-founded.

Leading the exemplary ensemble, Carthy gives a brilliant portrayal. Her stooped posture, crotchety voice, and ironically humorous line readings capture the eccentricities and larger-than-life qualities of this colorful focal character. Wall's portrayal is likewise a triumph of physicality; he convincingly plays a character older than himself, and tellingly projects the embittered and compassionate sides of this deeply hurt man. Greenidge superbly delineates Tera's torturous dilemma: to follow her passions or her spousal loyalty. As the impetuous youth, Crossland does fine work, evoking resonant contemporary sensibility. Four gifted triple-threat performers (Peter Barent Lewis, Adam Pe単a, Jen Kays, Cloie Wyatt Taylor) play visiting relatives who are circus gypsies. They provide buoyant fun, then skillfully shift to darker territory in a climactic dance sequence, exquisitely choreographed by Lindsay Martin.

The script's alluring sense of mysticism is beautifully served by Davis Campbell's astonishing set, Matt Richter's lighting, Susanne Klein's ravishing costumes, and Becky Grajeda's sound. Miles' fanciful yet reflective work becomes a beautifully textured exercise in stylization in this lovely production -- a treat for the eye, the ear, and the intellect.

Presented by Iridescent Rain Productions in association with New Perspectives Theatre Company at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Aug. 16-Sep. 21. (323) 960-7864. www.plays411.com/roman.

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