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TRAIN OF THOUGHT

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In desperate pursuit of some nebulous self, Claudie (playwright/actress Jane Edith Wilson)—broke in pocketbook if not in spirit—stops her world to board a train to take her away from her unsatisfying past and maybe toward a more defining future. Before disappearing into her psychological hinterlands, she catches up with her best friends from college, the sensible Jill (an engaging Mary Keefe O'Brien) and the bitterly disappointed Andrea (Zachary Barton). In flashbacks, she relives their friendship and her relationship with her long-suffering boyfriend, Dexter (Josiah Polhemus), whom she is also leaving behind. The action takes place in a Grand Central Station coffee shop the day before Christmas. In what could be a symbolic reference to Claudie's mainly reactive life story, or maybe just a question of awkward direction, the ragtag and bobtail patrons of the café noisily upstage the tentative young woman's retelling of her story, in director Cheryl E. Grant's staging.

Largely irrelevant to the main plot are the dramas of a mentally unstable young couple (Judith Shelton and Gary Lucy) who are headed to meet his mother; a mature woman with a past, Florence (Cindy Drummond), who is taking a long lunch to assuage her disgust with her whippersnapper boss; a pregnant woman, Nancy (Kelie McIver), who tells Florence a ghastly tale of her abusive first marriage while she temporarily seeks refuge from her two bratty kids who are in the next room with her new boyfriend; a harassed, overworked gay waiter (in an authentic performance by Lance Ohnstad), and a late arrival, the Man (Ryan C. Benson), who is either crazy or just a boor. (All that seem to be missing are a homeless person and a savvy black janitor.) These distracting dramas detract from Claudie's wimpy saga that, played out stage right, for the most part at a sub-audible level, gets sidelined into a subplot.

Some faked fireworks when Andrea gets obnoxiously drunken and some obvious blind spots in the friends' relationship make one wonder why they've remained friends—indeed, how they ever even became buddies. A flashback to their college days is precious, stilted, and unhelpful. Claudie's lack of interest in carrying on a coherent conversation, and her irritating habit of drifting into tuneless song whenever the spirit moves her, might suggest a degree of autism to a vigilant psychologist. To her befuddled boyfriend, and to playwright Wilson, these traits obviously suggest cute. Too many stories, too much wringing of the hands in soapy themes, too many character types, however well played—and they are—can't stand in for a solid focal point or just one good story carried through to its logical conclusion. Despite the play's title, Wilson loses her train of thought long before the attenuated final curtain.

"Train of Thought," presented by Writative Inc. at the Tamarind Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Mon.-Wed. 8 p.m. Mar. 13-Apr. 4. $10-12. (323) 930-9304.

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