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LA Theater Review

Fifth of July

Fifth of July
Lanford Wilson's Talley trilogy—including "Talley's Folly," "Talley & Son," and "Fifth of July"—chronicles the lives of the Talley family and is set in his hometown of Lebanon, Mo. The latter centers on Ken Talley (Scott Victor Nelson), a gay paraplegic and semi-recluse who lost both his legs in the Vietnam War and still suffers from the resulting malaise.

He has inherited the old Talley house, where he's hosting an oddly assorted crew—including his sister June (Jennifer Sorenson), her self-dramatizing daughter Shirley (Margaret Dwyer), and his gardener-lover Jed (Johnny Patrick Yoder). Also present are rock music promoter John Landis (Christopher Carver) and his singer wife, Gwen (Jen Albert)—former school chums and close friends now pursuing music careers. Their spaced-out sidekick Wes (Rob Herring) nods in and out of the action, and Ken's eccentric and outspoken aunt, Sally Talley Friedman (Judy Nazemetz), has also arrived, intent on scattering the ashes of her late husband. But their old closeness has been eroded by the passage of time and changes in their lives, and unexpected conflicts break out.

Director–set designer August Viverito has assembled an able cast and welded them into a solid production, though his first act could use sharper focus to enable us to sort out the multiple characters and their complicated backstories. Nelson's Ken is a sensitive sketch of a man in retreat from life, who must gather his courage to rejoin the world. As his lover, Yoder is a self-effacing but strong-willed presence. Dwyer delivers an effective performance as the pushy, self-absorbed adolescent Shirley, but she's so loud and obstreperous that she sometimes overwhelms the action. Albert nimbly captures Gwen's insecurity and her determined authority once she gets a taste of success, and Carver gives a satiric edge to his portrait of her arrogant but ultimately ineffectual husband. Nazemetz provides a colorful portrait of the aging but still salty Aunt Sally, and Herring supplies ample comic relief.

Presented by the Production Company at the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave., Hollywood. May 20–June 25. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (800) 838-3006.

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