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P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD!

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The history of theatre is filled with plays that, although important and groundbreaking when written, have since become dated and somewhat irrelevant. One example is this James Kirkwood play. Adapted in 1975 from his novel, the social comedy regarding love, homosexuality, and middle-age angst has lost shock value, and to a modern audience its humor seems merely hokey. Even the strongest cast and director could do little to revive Kirkwood's words. This cast, at best, is competent, and Scott A. Vandrick's direction lacks focus and is too deliberate.

Though punctuated with a few modern references and updated to New Year's Eve 2004, P.S. feels every bit its age. Jimmy (William Charles Hare) is in the midst of the worst day of his life. He returns home, fired from his job, to find his girlfriend Kate (Gloria Gruber) in the midst of leaving a "Dear John" letter, which includes the postscript that the animal hospital has called with bad news. Kate then leaves for a date with Fred (Steven D. Connor). But those negative events take a back seat to the presence of Vito (Will Starr), a gay burglar—his sexual preference is integral to the plot—who has returned to clean Jimmy out of his loot for the third time. When Jimmy gets the drop on Vito, he plots wacky revenge.

Starr pulls off the misguided and troubled but still likeable thief. He is at once tough and sweet. Gruber is passable as the unpleasant Kate, but Hare never seems able to make Jimmy's manic mood believable. He fluctuates between taking the character over-the-top or not far enough. Some of the fault belongs to Vandrick. Except for the comical climax, his pacing is achingly slow, which translates to an unnecessarily long running time of more than two hours. He is a step behind with the comedy, and that mistiming adversely affects the dramatic moments. But his biggest problem is having to work with Kirkwood's script, an exercise that should only take place these days in an acting class.

"P.S., Your Cat Is Dead!," presented by Shire Entertainment and the Attic Theatre Ensemble at the Attic Theatre & Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., L.A. Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 6 p.m. Jan. 29-Feb. 27. $20. (323) 525-0600, ext. 2.

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