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LA Theater Review

Ten Cent Night

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The term offbeat comedy may sound out of place for a play that involves a pair of incest cases, abortion, multiple suicide, and alcoholism. But playwright Marisa Wegrzyn finds the humor in these difficult situations without ignoring the tragedy, and this versatile ensemble hits almost every emotional note pitch-perfectly. Its two-and-a-half-hour running time rarely feels labored, thanks to director Maria Gobetti's varied pacing. And even though there are a few convoluted plot points, the strong characters drive the story to a pleasing conclusion.

The title refers to a hit country music song penned by Hewitt Finley, whose suicide in a 1973 rural Texas town sets in motion life-altering changes for his offspring: adult twins, hard-drinking singer Roby (Tara Buck) and uptight Dee (Caitlin Muelder), and their teen siblings, also twins, Sadie (Alison Rood) and Holt (Shane Zwiner). Roby's new love interest is a mute named Danny (Martin Papazian), whose boss Roscoe (Gareth Williams) is part philosopher, part gangster. And Lila (Kathleen Bailey) is the town's brothel owner with plenty of moxie and secrets.

Wegrzyn's story is overstuffed with subplots, but she has a knack for well-defined characters, each of whom shine in the hands of these actors. Williams shines brightest as Roscoe, who sports a never-ending gee-whiz smile, while his eyes and powerful walk scream intimidation. Also impressive is Bailey who, as the worldly prostitute, conveys a motherly quality to everyone, taking no guff but always ready to hug. Papazian ably provides personality to the mute Danny. And Buck, as the de facto protagonist, is believable as the haggard loser trying to fight against her father's legend.

Gobetti allows the tender moments room to breathe while ramping up the funnier scenes. She also finds space on Gary Randall's cozy set to keep the actors from being overly static. Wegrzyn's story has a few time and space problems, which could be easily remedied, but they don't detract from this quirky fun comedy.

Presented by and at the Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank. June 19July 26. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m. (818) 841-5421 or www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org.

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