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LA Theater Review

Dolly West's Kitchen

Perhaps influenced by his own 1990 adaptation of Chekhov's "Three Sisters," Frank McGuinness mimics much of Chekhov's situational drama while examining the lives of the West family in this World War II drama set in Buncrana, County Donegal, Ireland. Like "Three Sisters," it mixes humor with melancholy as it delves into the emotional lives of the characters.

College-educated Dolly West (Kirsten Kollender) has spent seven years in Italy, studying art, but with the advent of the war she has reluctantly returned to help manage the family home. Her elder sister, Esther (Kacey Camp), and her husband, Ned (Greg Bryan), also reside there, along with her mother, Rima (Casey Kramer), her younger brother, Justin (Bret Mack), and their servant girl, Anna (Natalie Hope MacMillan). Early on, revelations occur that not all is well among the siblings, and when British soldier Alec (Shawn Savage) arrives with two American GIs, Marco (Cameron J. Oro) and Jamie (Martin Doordan), their appearance provides the catalyst for changes in all their lives.

McGuinness' characters are universally the products of fractured families and unhappy marriages. Rima's unfaithful husband left her; Esther's loveless marriage makes her ripe for Jamie's attention; Dolly's former lover, Alec, has issues; and Justin's closeted homosexuality makes him fear Marco's attentions.

There's nothing like an Irish play for deliciously complex angst, and this one doesn't disappoint. Kramer is lusty and earthy, and her powerful characterization is scene-stealing. Doordan is comically and overtly gay, yet he and Mack provide some of the most tender moments in the play. Kollender and Camp's sisterly relationship within the dynamic of the story provides edgy gravity to the unfolding events.

Though McKerrin Kelly's direction is subtle and carries just the right amount of passion, it might be noted that in several scenes the actors' failure to project makes details inaudible. Nonetheless, the entire production is engaging and thought-provoking.

Though the ending is a contrivance neatly disposing of all the characters' concerns, it remedies the affairs of all with a hopeful outlook. Accomplished actors and a meaty script make for good theater.

Presented by Theatre Banshee at The Banshee, 3435 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. Oct. 29-Dec. 4. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (818) 846-5323.

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