Jim Geoghan's play has become the holiday play of choice for the Theatre District, a 6-year-old company that has just moved into its new home at the Cast Theatre. While it doesn't approach the expected sentimentality of other Christmas stories, like A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, and It's a Wonderful Life, it nonetheless benefits from an overactive complement of tearful moments. With a blind, angry man at the center of its plot, a tough-minded good friend who has issues of his own, and a woefully plain do-gooder with a generous heart, all thrown together in the Christmas season, one can almost hear the angels in the attic chasing away the bats in the belfry.
Tom (David Rousseve), blinded by a car battery explosion eight years earlier, is managing very nicely, thank you, as an angry ex-cabbie who refuses to be dependent on his good friend, Lou (an excellent Steve McCammon). When Lou decides to move to Vermont, Tom is left in the hands of a volunteer reader-to-the-blind, Edna (Karen Mangano in a worthy performance), a spinsterish lady of a certain age who, despite her ladylike reserve, is not about to be intimidated by Tom's thunderously black defensiveness. The only question here is how long it will be before Tom and Edna, both a couple of mixed-up misfits, find themselves and each other.
While Geoghan's play sports some decent dialogue and includes a couple of moving insights, the conflict is diffused among the three characters. Tom is in conflict with Lou, who's in conflict with his here-today, gone-tomorrow, unseen girlfriend; Edna is in conflict, but only temporarily, with Tom, and then later with Lou. The actual and reported conflagrations cancel out one another. Some of the tales told by the three are less than believable, including a particularly lame one told by Edna to convince Tom her father was a worse man than Tom's.
Director Mario Lescot gets his characters in the way of the furniture, and vice versa, far too often. He also allows too many significant "moments," which cloud the pace and overall clarity of the piece, thus making saccharine the leftover taste in the mind. While there's nothing inherently wrong with sentimentality, especially at this season of the year, the quality and verity of this play are severely compromised by having the actors play into it rather than against it. Thus Rousseve, a fine and focused actor, is far more interesting and acres more effective as a wrathful victim than he is as a mushy romantic.
This company may be a little too familiar with this play to take an objective new look into it. The Theatre District, however, is a promising company that should do well in its new home.
"Light Sensitive," presented by Theatre District at the former Cast Theatre, 804 N. El Centro, Hollywood. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Dec. 1-Jan. 14. $15-20. (323) 957-2343.