at the Noho Arts Center
The good news about The Good Life is that when Canadian playwright Daniel Brooks gets on a roll, he can create monologues for his characters filled with dizzyingly philosophical arabesques and swirls. The not-so-good news is, in his attempt to meld Plato with Patrick Marber's Closer, Brooks has created an uneven play about characters who say things unbelievably detrimental to their supposed careers, and the work's scene-to-scene construction is rather shaky.
Dan (Christopher Shyer) talks about his acting career with an utter lack of enthusiasm in front of journalist Eve (Tara Orr). Furthermore, he and his wife, Gena (Jessica Steen), reveal the clear dissatisfaction in their private lives in front of her, something that may serve Brooks' intentions but is utterly out of the realm of reality.
Now mix in their friend Chris (Philippe Brenninkmeyer), unable to say he loves his shrewish harpie of a wife, Mary (Larissa Laskin), but unwilling to leave her. The roundelay of love, lust, and musing is made complete by Gord (Kurt Caceres), who cheats with Gena after Dan leaves her for Eve. The imbalance in lengths of the acts and scenes is exacerbated by the characters' withholdings of their emotional reactions after shattering betrayals. One wonders what universe these otherwise realistic characters populate. Co-directors Sara Botsford and CB Brown find themselves in a quandary when Brooks' rich monologues take hold, for they have the players eventually ignore the others onstage and play out to the house, before returning to the action. It's all the more frustrating because—with the exception of Laskin, who goes so far over the top that she falls into an abyss—the cast is very solid, galvanized by Shyer's fine, soul-searching performance. Brooks' characters have a lot of lofty things on their minds, which is all well and good. But we tire of the Symposium and seek something grounded in the real world of people struggling with everyday ennui and stultifying monogamy.
Presented by 49th Parallel Theatre at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Mar. 17-Apr. 30. (818) 752-4709.
Reviewed by Brad Schreiber