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So much of the time life is about choices. And sometimes when other people's choices are thrust upon you, it's about figuring out who's responsible for them. Or, in the case of The Theatre District's earnest but entirely ineffective production of Pauline Dessler's presumably well-intentioned play, it's who's to blame.

Carpe Dream tells the story of a gifted young dancer, Susie (Ingrid Schaffenburg), who's overcome by fear after a home invasion robbery. Her agoraphobia has put a stop to her career and is threatening to destroy her new marriage to a successful lawyer (John Ainsworth). Susie is stuck at home with a whole lot of misplaced anger in a general state of lethargy; she can't even muster up the energy to kill herself. Her overbearing mother (Jennifer Buttell) doesn't help her mental state, either. Good thing, then, that she's about to be visited by a bunch of goddesses who'll help her, literally, seize her dreams to put her life back on track. There's not much subtlety here to start with, but under the heavy-handed direction of Macario Gaxiola, the unfortunate choices onstage range from obvious to curious to unforgivable.

So this theoretically magical tale of a woman's journey to reclaim herself is reduced to a lot of yelling and screaming; actors doing cute things that don't make sense in the context; and long, drawn-out "moments" we often can't see because of awkward staging. When the goddesses are involved, it's all heavenly sounds and lights behaving strangely and character by accent. (Michelle Merring, Cynthia Rube, Liza de Weerd, Amy Rilling, Shannon Hunt and Lauren McMeikan are the sisters of many dialects.) Oddly, it's the men in this mostly female cast who are the most appealing: the very charming Ainsworth, and also Shannon McClung as—in a highly perverse plot twist that adds to the playwright's trivialization of a woman's fears after being victimized—Susie's warm and fuzzy attacker.

"Carpe Dream," presented by and at The Theatre District, 804 N. El Centro, Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Aug. 26-Oct. 8. $15. (323) 957-2343.

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