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THE FOURTH WALL

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After six years of roving around like a band of theatrical Gypsies, The Garage Theatre (named after its first location) has finally found a home: the intimate 30-seat space formerly occupied by The Found Theatre. In celebration, this ensemble opens its inaugural season with A.R. Gurney's play. A broad social satire that was written during the first President Bush's Gulf War, it was tweaked in 2002 to address the Iraq crisis under son Dubya's watch.

As always, Gurney's plot concerns well-educated upper-middle-class characters who gently skewer conservative values through witty, sophisticated dialogue hurled across the stage, but this time his method is double-edged. Not only is the script loaded with direct historical references to theatrical styles, stage conventions, and plays that tear down the fourth wall, but there are also pointed political allusions that eventually march right through it. Such tough material demands a well-trained cast to make it zing. Under the direction of Matt Anderson, four actors go into burlesque mode to put it across. Kim Bush plays Peggy, an innocent self-effacing housewife, who, deeply disturbed about what's happening in the world, rearranges her living room furniture to face a blank wall: the audience. Her conservative, self-satisfied husband, Roger (Eric Hamme), is so annoyed by the results that he invites his flamboyant friend Julia (Danielle Bearden-Mead) to help redecorate. But Peggy is resolute. "While we're sealed off alone in here, there are people watching out there…. We've got to break through to them." Julia and Roger think Peggy has lost it. But, because the living room has become a stage, perhaps the local drama professor (Jamie Sweet) might straighten things out.

When the quiet housewife, the stodgy businessman, the hot-blooded New Yorker, and the loopy pedantic thespian get together, they rove through selected snippets of stage business from Greek drama to Broadway musicals—especially Cole Porter. The surprise ending of all the high jinks delights everyone in the audience.

"The Fourth Wall," presented by and at the Garage Theatre, 251 E. 7th St., Long Beach. Fri.-Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 2 pm. Feb. 4-27. $12-15. (562) 433-8337.

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