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When Gigi Bermingham couldn't scare up a juicy role for herself—a dream destination for most of her life—she found it necessary to invent one. On the verge of letting the business quit her, she wrote Non-Vital Organs, a solo play in which, according to this writer, "she succeeds in magnificently populating a full-length play without benefit of anyone else's actual presence." The play was visually, emotionally, and dramaturgically adept playwriting that served as a showpiece for the actor's chameleon versatility. If the program hadn't insisted this was a solo piece, one might have believed it was one very smart piece of ensemble theatre, complete with beginning, middle, and end, features often lacking in even the best-made plays. "I'd always wanted to write a play," Bermingham told me in our recent interview. "I couldn't quit before doing it."

After a long drought, she took the success of Non-Vital Organs, along with Ovation and Garland nominations and the L.A. Drama Critics Circle's Natalie Schafer Award and rode with it. Bermingham hit the stage running with juicy roles in Riga at the John Anson Ford, The Cherry Orchard at the Odyssey, Henry V at the Globe, Twelfth Night at NY Shakespeare Festival, Tale of the Allergist's Wife at Sacramento's B Street Theatre, and a string of prestigious TV appearances. Rob Reiner, bewitched by her performance in The Cherry Orchard, has now cast her in her first film, Alex and Emma.

As Dorine, the perky, pesky maid in the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and Circus Theatricals' Tartuffe, Bermingham has ample opportunity to strut her marvelous stuff. She is without peer in the comedy department, with nary a false step, handling Richard Wilbur's clever verse translation of Molière's funniest play as if verse were her mother tongue and comedy her life blood. She has the uncanny facility of being able to inject some of her natural soul-spark into her role, which lends character to her character without changing its shape.

The only direction for this committed actor is definitely up.

—Madeleine Shaner

"Tartuffe" continues at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. Wed.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Through July 13. $19.50-25. (310) 477-2055.

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