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LA Theater Review

The Misanthrope

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Although billed as Molière's The Misanthrope, this "version by Martin Crimp" is an adaptation, not a translation, that bears the flavor of the original, with its familiar rhyming couplets, but is very much in the Hollywood vernacular and deals with trendy industry dish, rather than with affairs in and around the Royal Court. The "showrunner" is Alceste, a famous writer (played with savage bite by Nick Cagle), who is a martinet when it comes to in-your-face truth-telling to, and about, his showbiz colleagues, most of whom have dutifully taken the "hypocritic" oath. Daniel Reichert as John, Alceste's sounding board, gently spins the vicious invective as a good PR man should. New actor in town is sex kitten Jennifer (Samantha Sloyan, a stunning charmer), a hottie with few inhibitions accompanying her ambitions. Everyone would like a bite of the shining star before she flames out: cokehead actor in spite of himself Julian (Harris Matthews); greasy, ponytailed agent Alex (Norman Snow, alternating with Brian George); jealously aging acting coach Marcia (a superb Carlyle King, alternating with Peggy Flood); dirt-dishing tabloid journalist Ellen (a cool Catherine Cavadini); unctuous critic Covington (the sterling Dakin Matthews, alternating with Snow), who believes he has written the century's best script; and the motorcycle messenger (Michael Abruscato). And each wants total possession, most of all the wretched Alceste, who is ignominiously shamed to the point of scrapping his scruples.

Crimp's verse adaptation is wordy and amusing, only occasionally referencing its 17th-century origins, intelligent while serving a screamingly crass culture, and verbally crude only in the service of its contemporary ambiance. The clever rhymes sometimes stretch credibility and logic, which makes them as funny as they are smart, and this happy band of terrific actors keeps up the spanking pace without ever losing a laugh or failing to make a point, under John DeMita's elegant direction.

Dean Cameron's attractively furnished set, under Peter Strauss' clean lighting, along with Kim Deshazo's swell costumes and Beta-Unit's up-to-the-minute video, help turn the limited space into an intimate little theatre.

Presented by Andak Stage Company at New Place Studio Theatre,

10950 Peach Grove St., North Hollywood.

Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m. Sep. 8-Oct. 14.

(866) 811-4111. www.andak.org.

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