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LA Theater Review

Lake Street Extension

Lee Blessing's midcareer play nimbly confines a triumvirate of characters whose shame for their past acts finally comes welling to the surface like air bubbles in tar. Fuller (Allen Andrews) has provided a basement room as refuge for Gregorio (Luis Robledo), who was marked for death in the insurrection that ravaged El Salvador in 1982. Fuller, through his church ministry, feels he is giving a safe haven for Gregorio, while allowing the well-spoken man to conduct interviews outside the house about the tragedy of that Central American country. But Gregorio must face a new challenge in the unexpected arrival of Trace (Rick Sparks), Fuller's son, a street hustler still infuriated by the incest his father perpetrated against him.

Trace threatens physical violence toward his father and this interloper, and it results in a revelation about Gregorio: Rather than being a pure refugee, he was a soldier who was forced to commit atrocities at the infamous El Mozote massacre, in which 900 or so civilians were murdered by government forces. Blessing, a gifted dramatist, knows how to maintain menace while giving these men achingly beautiful admissions. The play shines through despite the limitations of the players: Sparks is mostly rage, Robledo is too low-energy and soft-spoken, and Andrews has nothing more than a hangdog expression for his misdeeds.

Director Jesus Reyes is admittedly limited by the size of the stage but could have found better ways to separate Fuller from the other players during his monologues. To his credit, Reyes presents the bursts of violence among these characters with a sickening, sudden authority. But his casting is a major liability, most evident in Andrews' stiff, flat presentation of direct address to the audience, more a recitation of lines that an anguished attempt at expiation of guilt.

Presented by 320 Productions at Sierra Stages,

1444 N. Sierra Bonita Ave., L.A.

Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Feb. 1-16.

(323) 356-7760.

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