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LA Theater Review

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Five young people desperately seeking something share the irritating human habit of looking in all the wrong places for what they seek. Raina (a sublimely fresh and natural Shannon Jarrell) is a poet by persuasion and a romantic manqué when it comes to love. Convinced by her dead white poets that love is a tangible concept she'll magically recognize when she runs into it, she's ready to give practical advice to her needy sister, Joy (an equally realistic Shannon Nelson), but not ready to take it. Joy's husband, Cliff (Richard Wylie), on his way to the top in the Band-Aids industry, doesn't have time for romance. It's obviously time for a pizza. Enter a rather strange and extraordinary pizza delivery guy, Ryan, played by a very engaging, strange, and extraordinary Chuck Raucci, who won't let go even when set up in dubious battle against staid medieval-literature professor Derek (a solid David Nett, who also co-directs with Patty Ramsey).

Jessica Lind's romantic comedy takes a predictable course, relieved for the most part by its wit and charm, and its subtly detailed direction and superfine performances, making us all fall a little in love with the characters. By the second act, however, the little engine that obviously can and will has lost its steam. This is replaced by sticky sentimentality and "lessons in life" dealt in dreams and just-born-again wisdom from the newly pregnant Joy. Passion and fun is replaced with angst and allergies, with only a couple of emotional peaks. The second act totters along as if the color has been drained out of it; the "passion recollected in tranquility" that Wordsworth wrote about is almost too tranquil, even for a romantic comedy about the poetry of love.

Set and lighting design (Nett), costumes (Nelson), props and dressing (James Paul Xavier), and original music by Jacob Carver are lovingly detailed, and the charm never leaves, but the audience gets there before the playwright does.

Presented by Lucid by Proxy at the Paul E. Richards Theater Place, 2902 Rowena Ave., L.A. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. (Dark Sun. Apr. 16.) Mar. 31-Apr. 30. (800) 838-3006.

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