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LA Theater Review

Urned Happiness

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Not dark enough to be uncomfortably funny and not physical enough to fit the genre of slapstick, Ernest Kearney's play about the death of perhaps the world's meanest woman is, instead, merely mildly amusing. It's not the premise that's at fault, nor the competent performances. Rather, the simplistic plot has been spread wafer-thin to stretch over two acts and 90 minutes.

The story takes place in a living room, where a family is gathering after a funeral. The mother of Kim (Julie Mann) and Maggie (Kal Bennett) has died, which apparently has made everyone much happier. The deceased mom had lived with Kim, which drove Kim to drink and which made her husband (Joe Corgan) so crazy that he left several months earlier, only to return for the "happy occasion." The only apparently sad person is Maggie, who refused to have Mom live at her house, much to the relief of her husband (Gary Rubenstein).

Most of the dialogue in the first act consists of taking turns insulting Mom, who hated everyone and everything. The lone twist comes from The Unexpected Visitor (TJ Marchbank), leading to an even more predictable second act. Mann portrays Kim with some reserve, even when she says outrageous things. Rubenstein's overly shy demeanor as the henpecked Gary offers a few laughs. Corgan and Bennett are working with the disadvantage of playing cartoonish characters, but both make the most of the few sensible moments in the script to find humanity.

Kearney, who also serves as the director, pushes the pace to get the most of the humor, and he sharply executes the physical comic bits. But, unfortunately, there's only enough original material for a 15-minute sketch. So the rest is merely filler while waiting for the obvious conclusion.

Presented by Lean Dog-Mean Dog Productions at T.U. Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. Dec. 3–Feb. 6, 2011. Fri.–Sun., 8 p.m. (Dark Dec. 24–26.) (800) 838-3006. www.brownpapertickets.com.

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