To have two Tennessee Williams one-acts followed by a parody of same is inspired, a lagniappe offered to the audience to acknowledge that the actors enjoyed indulging in florid excess—and it was nice of the house to remain seated and silent. In this instance, I regret, we sat not only seated and silent but mildly stunned as the corpse of each piece was dragged out, flopped across the stage, unhurriedly observed, then quietly dragged away.
It's anybody's guess as to which director felt the evening needed to happen at all. Che'Rae Adams, displaying no apparent ear for nuance, shepherds her cast through the leaden whimsy of The Case of the Crushed Petunias. The straitlaced Dorothy Simple (Christine Krench) begins at shattered and just keeps pushing, while the mysterious gentleman who shows her life's magical possibilities is remarkably pedestrian as played by David Moses. Dapper though Moses is in his natty ensemble (designed by Cynthia Herteg), he's portraying a character whose gestures are accompanied by glissandos of chimes (Mark McClain Wilson on canned magic) with the straightforward approach of a second-rate salesman.
The slice-of-life-not-terribly-well-lived piece directed by Dan Oliverio, Talk to Me Like the Rain, probably should have been offered up as the parody. Dianne J. Scheider's character rambles on about moving to a faraway hotel and letting life pass with the wide eyes and tremulous hands that signal unhinged Williams dame to the balconies. Nicolas Pavlos listlessly plays a man who has a habit of coming to in various compromising positions around Manhattan, the latest in a tub of iced beer. Although it's tedious in the extreme, no time spent watching an attractive actor loll about in his underwear can ever be considered wasted. Oliverio then drains what appears to be considerable humor out of Anna Baum's script, Something I Smoked Last Summer. Wendy Worthington, playing Big Mommy Winship, knows where the jokes lie, but it appears nobody else is in on the game. Do you think I exaggerate? My date, a notably gentle woman, told me at the end of the evening, "I cringe thinking about reading your review. I don't want to relive this experience."
"Tennessee in Hollywood," presented by The Antrobus Group at the Elephant Lab Theatre, 1078 N. Lillian Way, L.A. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 5 p.m. Feb. 17-Mar. 6. $20. (323) 282-2485.