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Reviews

LOVE STRUCK

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It opens with a bravura flourish. Sirens blare, searchlights probe the darkened stage to illuminate scantily clad lovers in a steamy embrace—same-sex lovers, feminine persuasion. Is this soft-core porn? Well, no. It's 1992 L.A.; race riots account for sirens and searchlights and have little to do with the play, which proceeds in flashback and fast-forward scenes to tell the torrid yet tender tale of actors Laura and Rachel's relationship. The surefooted authority with which scenes flow proclaims the skill and versatility of Odalys Nanín, who produced the play, co-wrote it (with Marie Barrientos), directed it, co-stars in it, and helms Macha (as opposed to macho) Theatre Company as its founder and artistic director. Nanín doesn't just do all this, she does it well.

The course of true love never runs smooth—otherwise no play. Without a fuss about it, these lovers are lesbians—so named for the Greek isle of Lesbos, "where burning Sappho lived and sang" (and wrote burning poetry: "Mother, I cannot mind my wheel/ My fingers ache, my lips are dry/ Oh, if you felt the way I feel/ But oh! Who ever felt as I?") We've come a long way from Lesbos, and from the excruciating isolation of Radclyffe Hall's classic The Well of Loneliness. Lesbianism is not much of a problem for Laura and Rachel. Maybe we've progressed toward more humane acceptance of differences. This love story takes a refreshingly light and playful tone, à la screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s. A bumpy road to romance can be fun.

Nanín's Laura and Terri Lyn Rain's Rachel are gorgeous and well contrasted. Looks and manner of lushly curvaceous brunette Nanín bespeak her Cuban origin, which she accents with bongo beats on that bright red drum, plus rumba and conga flourishes. Rain's red-haired, reed-slim Rachel resembles a sophisticated young Cher. Both have dazzling smiles, panache, and humor.

Laura and Rachel undergo dissension, doubt, conflict, therapy, and celebrate their three-year anniversary. Troubled Rachel chafes at commitment and does stupid things: leaves her private journal in a drawer, in a fit of nostalgia locks herself into purple velvet handcuffs with no key at hand. But this leads to a theatrically effective finale: More levelheaded Laura produces the key, unlocks her shackled mate, and gently proclaims, "You're free." Tearfully, Rachel melts into Laura's warm embrace; free to go, she stays.

Dan Reeder's smart, sleek set is graced with D. Stewart Farquhar's eloquent lighting and Scott Nikoley's sound (but we'd like more heady Cuban music). Costumes are becoming, often revealing, and uncredited.

"Love Struck," presented by MACHA Theatre Co. at the Victory Theatre, 3326 Victory Blvd., Burbank. Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Sept. 21-Oct. 27. $20-25. (818) 623-9333.

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