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Historic Times

In "Historic Times," playwright Andrew Case has attempted to draw a parallel between attitudes in Los Angeles during WW II and in 1999. In Act One, he uses famous Holocaust emigres such as composer Arnold Schoenberg and philosopher Theodor Adorno, alongside Hollywood habitues Sam Goldwyn and Dorothy Parker, to demonstrate the self-indulgence of the film colony. In Act Two, two immigrants to Los Angeles investigate police brutality in the LAPD. While the genocide in the Balkans might have made a fair parallel, the police brutality in 1999 (post-Rodney King) simply doesn't set up a convincing contemporary equivalent.

Director Carolyn Rendell was more successful with the 1944 section (the more coherently written act) and, along with set designer Jane Mancini, kept the cinematic and kaleidoscopic scenes segueing swiftly into each other.

The 1944 New Year's Eve party introducing the historic characters was particularly well staged. Dan O'Driscoll's fight choreography was also effective. The costumes by Deanna Berg gave a suitable sense of period detail.

The difficulty with portraying historic characters on stage is audience expectations. Here, however, the actors' problems had to do with how their roles were written, although the ensemble of nine worked valiantly to give their characters style. Scott C. Reeves' Adorno was convincingly somber, while Livia Newman's suicidal Parker wasn't cynical enough. Evan Zes unsuccessfully tried to make a drunken Schoenberg into a comic character, while Zander Teller's Stravinsky had no Russian accent. Kate Cordaro's philanthropist Dorothy Chandler was a subtle portrayal, while Christian Pedersen's Goldwyn was unbelievably crass. Keri Setaro made the fictional starlet Valerie Vail delightfully empty-headed.

In the contemporary half, Jeremy Alan Richards made a bland police investigator, but Richarda Abrams was devastating as an African woman being harassed by the police. Playing fictional equivalents of their earlier roles, the cast was successful to varying degrees.

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