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LA Theater Review

Little Armenia

The Los Angeles area known as Little Armenia is bordered by Hollywood Boulevard, Vermont Avenue, Santa Monica Boulevard, and the 101 Freeway. The Fountain Theatre is in the heart of this vibrant community. So it makes perfect sense for said theatre to initiate a project created from observations of, and interviews with, members of the community in which it is housed.

Little Armenia was written over the course of a year by a trio of Armenian playwrights — Lory Bedikian, Aram Kouyoumdjian, and Shahé Mankerian — and explores three generations of two related families through the observant eyes of aspiring writer Ashot (Ludwig Manukian). Ashot likes to think himself more modern and socially developed than his old-country parents — superstitious Vartouhi (Jade Hykush) and conservative Gevorg (Jack Kandel) — but his latent, more traditionalist nature is revealed in his reactions to Mark (Hunter Lee Hughes), the non-Armenian fiancé of Ashot's sister, Siran (Karine Chakarian). Ashot also struggles with the old ways and the new while trying to balance his own needs and writing work with temporarily running his father's grocery business and listening to endless reminders about customer service and loyalty, as Gevorg recovers from quadruple-bypass surgery.

Scott Siedman's scenic design sets the show in three distinct playing areas: the back alley of Gevorg's store, the family's living room, and a neighboring church. The second story line, which involves teenagers Hratch (Johnny Giacalone) and Razmig (Salem Michael), and Hratch's scheme to get rich quick by palling around with hoodlum Khatcho (RB Dilanchian), takes place in the alleyway and church. These locations provide literal and metaphorical bookends to family (represented by the living room), which is the center of Armenian culture and the set.

Despite a general sense of self-consciousness, director Armina LaManna gets commendable performances from her actors. Anoush NeVart plays Hratch's mother, Azniv, with good humor and grace, and is particularly touching in reaction to a crisis faced by her friend Beatrice (Maro Ajemian). Hykush also provides memorable moments in a scene with Kandel as their daughter's wedding day arrives. And Dilanchian is highly entertaining as the not-as-bad-as-he-thinks street punk Khatcho.

The two stories intersect nicely, and although they could build to a higher emotional level and be fleshed out more, Little Armenia remains a well-executed project.

Presented by and at the Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Aug. 11-Sep. 3. (323) 663-1525.

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