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LA Theater Review

Nostalgia and Dreams

When a relatively new theatre company decides to go out on a limb to support young artists and new work onstage, it's an admirable thing. And props to the first-time playwright who takes risks and does things big. Too bad that sometimes the gamble doesn't pay off.

Brett Holland's Nostalgia and Dreams is a sprawling tale of disconnect, which wants to unite the lives of a group of apartment dwellers who live in the shadow of an ancient cathedral scheduled for destruction. There's a hardworking mother (Angelina Leaf) frustrated by her preteen with an eating disorder (Sydney Park), a sitcom-cute couple (Marguerite Moreau and Carlo Serna) with an unspoken secret, and a troubled young man (Holland) who desperately puts himself out into the gay "dating" scene, despite the objections of his clever, pint-sized alter ego (Chris Haehnel). Holland's stylized theatricality is also played out through an endearing Lynne Conner as a Bible-thumping muse on a spiritual journey that involves large orders of Italian take-away, and Danny Junod and Jessica Wright as two carnivorous corporate "suits," gruesome specters who are ready to devour the neighborhood once the church is out of the way.

But in his efforts to make his play about everything and stretch his playwright's voice beyond facile TV dialogue, Holland loses his hold on the audience; the parallel tracks of his characters never quite take us anywhere, and too many unexplained overtures, loose ends, and jumbled metaphors hang over the proceedings. Neither Kerrie Keane's staging choices nor several fine performances (particularly by young actors Park and Haehnel; Holland is also very appealing) in the somewhat uneven ensemble cast (which also includes the solid Regina Peluso and Jacob Saylor playing multiple roles) do much to help hold this overextended, albeit well-intentioned, material together.

Presented by White Buffalo Theatre Company at the Deaf West Theatre, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. April 24May 24. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.

(818) 569-3037.

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