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SEARCHING FOR AMERICANA

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Following your dreams can take you down many roads, and that process of searching is often investigated in novels and plays. In Emily Brauer's exploration of the nature of the process, a group of young filmmakers takes to the road to try to understand what drives Americans to revere local iconic landmarks so much that they become tourist attractions.

Roswell, N.M., is naturally one of the premier spots on the list of possibilities. Also considered are Lake Havasu—which contains the original London Bridge—and Cawker City, Kan., and its giant ball of sisal twine. Hoping to achieve the same success as Waiting for Guffman and Best of Show, Brauer creates caricatures of the small band of explorers, and here is where the difficulties of the script emerge. She has too many elements on her plate to successfully plumb any of them.

The director of the film, Vladima Smith (Amber Scott), is following a dream that she must finish to be fulfilled, despite real and perceived obstacles. She is accompanied by a ragtag bunch of fellow seekers. Among them are a young financial backer with a hearty libido (Jon Howard); a fellow who fancies himself Abe Lincoln (Leonard Joseph Dunham); a cameraperson (Kristin Elliot), whose maverick leanings get the group in trouble; a wannabe actor (Tony Swagler); and Howard's recent conquest (Renee Santos). Also taking several roles is Briana Chicha.

In the play's 80 minutes, Brauer tries to give these folks stories, but in the mix of plot and execution, enough time can't be devoted to give more than lip service about their personal dilemmas. It is an outline without flesh.

Director Katie Chidester puts her actors through their paces, but they struggle to cram in the minutiae of the scenes, and the lack of character development hampers the final product. Certainly an intriguing concept for a story, it nonetheless fails to deliver the impact it might with a judicious paring of scenes and settings. Instead of gawking at the tourist traps, it might have stopped to take a closer look at the individuals.

"Searching for Americana," presented by and at Hunger Artists Theatre Company, 699-A S. State College Blvd., Fullerton. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3-19. $12-15. (714) 680-6803.

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