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SPEAKING IN TONGUES

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If you insist on characters speaking directly to one another, with conflicts inherent in the straightforward human interaction, this is not the play for you. If, however, you're willing to trust a script built without that pillar, instead held up by simultaneously delivered dialogue that at least for that moment respects Aristotle's Unity of Time, give this Andrew Bovell play a whirl.

Police officer Leon (Patrick Tuttle) is married to Sonja (Anna Khaja); Pete (Aaron MacPherson) is married to Jane (Irina Bjørklund). They unknowingly have swapped for the evening, everyone meeting the new partner by chance. When we meet them they have arrived at their trysting place (set design by Jeff G. Rack of steeply raked stage, oversized bed, and softly billowing curtains). We hear their simultaneous conversations, spoken like a string quartet-with identical passages, canons, and harmonized notes. The various ramifications of the evening are brought back to their respective homes, then carried forward in time.

Momentarily reconciled, Leon tells Sonja of a man who had remained in love with a woman who rejected him, while Jane tells Pete of their next-door neighbor, Nick (Dylan Maddalena), who returned home late one night, bloodied and clutching a woman's shoe. We then meet the woman, Valerie (Hepburn Jamieson), whose shoe is later found; she is at a payphone as midnight approaches, trying to reach her husband, John (Brian George). But John has been with his lover, Sarah (Amelia Borella), who describes her encounter with a man who had remained in love with her although she rejected him. Nick gives Valerie a ride, Leon investigates Valerie's disappearance, Valerie is Sarah's disdainful psychotherapist.

Like a good music conductor, director Stephen Spinella not only trusts the audience to stay with the piece during deliberately slow passages but also makes sure his actors revel in the pacing no matter the speed. His direction is detailed, but his actors-each superb-are beautifully free, particularly considering the constraints of the play's language and staging.

Mildly troubling is Valerie's lack of a cell phone when she tries to reach John. Other than that, without mention of God or precepts, the work subtly prompts the viewer to ponder, "What have I done today, good or bad, that will impact those I love and those I don't know?"

"Speaking In Tongues," presented by the Open Fist Theatre Company in association with the Powerhouse Theatre Company at the Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Sep. 2-Oct. 8. $20. (323) 882-6912.

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