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at the Segerstrom Stage

One often hears our nation's disparate economic classes being described as "the haves" and "the have-nots." Kate Robin's seriocomic play raises an interesting question: Did those who seemingly have it all know what they wanted in the first place? Director Chris Fields' handsome and capably performed world-premiere staging makes an admirable stab at bringing this intelligent yet verbose play to life.

The opening scene is bolstered by the amusing folly of two yuppie couples in Los Angeles attempting to engage in intellectual chitchat, which keeps dissipating into hot air. The topics discussed are wide-ranging, but they end up becoming hilariously circuitous. How real is reality TV? What is the definitive response one should glean from a particular abstract painting? The more professionally successful couple is hotshot TV writer Jonas (Matt Letscher) and his wife, Connie (Marin Hinkle), a celebrated movie producer. Their friends are Suzanne (Nancy Bell), an artist creating expensive avant-garde paintings, and her spouse, Matt (Kevin Rahm), a guitarist whose only current gig is giving lessons at a public school. Jealousies surface, particularly when the spoiled Jonas indulges in petty whining about his alleged lack of fulfillment. When it becomes clear both couples yearn to have children, the question arises as to whether raising families could be the answer to the ennui plaguing these households. As the parenthood issue becomes the focal point of intense discussion, the edgy comic tension stalls, and the play gets bogged down in issues at the expense of characterization.

Nonetheless, the cast gives a commendable effort, making the most of the ironic humor. Letscher and Bell temper the annoying sides of their privileged characters with telling depictions of the emotional fog that most humans experience at one time or another. Bell achieves moments of strong empathy, and Rahm likewise makes us care about his underachieving musician. Christopher Barreca's revolving sets, Alex Jaeger's costumes, and Lap-Chi Chu's lighting are stylishly rendered. Robin's thoughtful themes and intermittently incisive scenes suggest this piece could be retooled into a compelling social satire.

Presented by South Coast Repertory at the Segerstrom Stage, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa. Tue.-Wed. 7:30 p.m., Thu.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 & 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Apr. 12-May 4. (714) 708-5555. www.scr.org.

Reviewed by Les Spindle

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