Milly, a young novelist-to-be, breaks into the home of her idol Wallace Trumbull, who wrote a novel 50 years before and then seemed to disappear. Why does she break in? To ensure he reads her sole copy of her work—because she typed it on an old typewriter. She manages to secure her presence with the line "Haven't you ever been desperate before?" Later, when he reveals a violent streak, she still stays. And thus two acts ensue.
Not that every play must hew to a particular style, but this one wanders among far too many. Neil Simon one-liners, magical realism, noir—as we watch Colin Mitchell's script unfold, we're never sure how we are to react, similarly unaided by the direction of Mark L. Taylor.
Making the evening worthwhile is the work of Steven Shaw as Wallace. He is a thinking actor—in his preparation and in his moment-to-moment work onstage. He is fascinating to watch, whether he is listening, lighting candles, straightening the place, or lying through his character's teeth. And although his dialogue too often consists of the line "Excuse me?" he makes it fresh every time.
Meredith Bishop plays Milly. The actor is skilled. But, like the play, she wanders among styles, starting out far too heightened and hysterical, turning ethereal, then playing for realism.
Lary Ohlson and Christopher Gehrman play two sports commentators, another layer that doesn't help shape the work.
Presented by Theatre 40 at the Reuben Cordova Theatre, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills.
Aug. 12-Sept. 6. Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.
(310) 364-0535. www.theatre40.org.