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LA Theater Review

The Last Hippie: A Western Novel

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Comedian Robin Williams famously commented that if you remembered the 1960s, you weren't really there. Vincent Mann, in this one-person show, laments being born too late for the hippie era, as well as being relegated to San Antonio, rather than the Haight-Ashbury or Greenwich Village. But as his title, oddly referencing a novel, suggests, his focus is murky. To a certain degree, this is entirely understandable, as Mann revels in all the different drugs he dabbled in. Bursts of his favorite music, vague references to Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and phrases about restoring his soul and seeing the face of God may not be the best way to embody the essence of that revolutionary time.

Mann's meandering tale of drug-taking, trying to find himself, and a love affair gone awry would have been better served with a more unique theme, tighter storytelling, and a more disciplined staging. Director Rachel Rebecca Roy allows Mann to wander the stage, sometimes entering a poorly lit part of the sparsely decorated playing area, reinforcing the feel of a show searching for a direction. Mann does a further disservice by mispronouncing such words as realm, asceticism, and dithylemide, and no amount of ingested LSD is an excuse.

Indeed one hopes for richly lurid language that recalls Mann's hero Thompson, whose descriptions of hallucinatory high jinks in Las Vegas so captured an aspect of the time. Mann is content to comment briefly on the beauty of nature. It's all a terrible shame because, despite his lack of performance chops, he is clearly able to occasionally create effective writing. In one of the show's few tense and vibrant moments, he is forced to do a drug deal with a Hispanic dealer who sticks a gun under his chin: "I knew he could pull the trigger, go have lunch, and expel my memory with a burp." Alas, if after two hours, you summarize a diffuse show with a clip of the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," you may find your audience sadly agreeing.

Presented by Vartan Merjanian/First Book Productions at the Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.
April 14May 12. Tue., 8 p.m.
(818) 783-6784 or www.itsmyseat.com/hippie.html.

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