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OONA: SPONTANEOUS THEATRE

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Were the press kit made available to everyone, you, too, could behold the image of the actress who has chosen in her headshot to flip off the viewer. While one can certainly appreciate the we-don't-follow-the-rules-we-make-them attitude, the sad truth is that when you're indulging in a self-styled "completely unscripted spontaneous theatrical experience" (or, as we stodgier types used to call it, "improv"), there are rules and reasons for them. The collective known as Oona (first sign of trouble: each bio notes that the subject is "carbon based") hasn't fully thought through the wisdom of throwing things against the wall in front of an audience for about an hour and hoping something sticks.

Adhesion might be enhanced if the performers in this group—D. Dillingham, N. Grossman, S. Karplus, J. Leman, and C. Morgan—had some sort of group dynamic going, but they give every appearance of having just met. The closest the actors get to falling into any sort of rhythm is when they start imitating one another's physicalities, usually followed by somebody making a statement of the obvious while giving the group little to work with. The night I was there, a line of people swinging their arms was defined by something like, "Me Cro-Magnon." The premise was then restated with slight variations and then abandoned. After about 10 minutes of this wandering my date slipped me a note reading, "I'll pay you money to walk out right now. Cash money!" Reader, I stayed, and this is why it's so hard to find a companion for a review show. But I digress.

For a form that functions best when actors run with ideas, no matter how absurd, this troupe seems awfully quick to deny one another. Actors not directly involved in a scene, rather than creating a part, would stand in the background and move in oddly stylized fashions. Standing still is one thing; then we can pretend you're not there. Once you start moving and making noise, however, we want to know why. Evidence of actual guidance (and G. Ashley and T. Stashwick are, in fact, listed as "guides") is slight.

Dillingham deserves credit for her excellent space work and for remembering from one set to the next what's going on, but she's defeated by the cast that wants to go for bad accents and cheap sexual humor whenever possible. I would be remiss, however, not to mention that the heavily young male audience loved the totally female performance troupe discussing blowjobs.

Ed Smaron broods off to one side and leads his little lambs along as best he can from his overseer position on the keyboard. It's not easy. In what should have been a big production number, he vamped endlessly before the cast caught on, and when they did it was no surprise that the number was "Me! I'm all about me!" The program promises, "You will always never see the same show twice." And I hope you always never have to.

"Oona: Spontaneous Theatre," presented by and at the Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hollywood. Wed. 8 p.m. July 11-Aug. 29. $10. (323) 993-8681.

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