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LA Theater Review

Pulling Leather

"My life is the rodeo, babe," emotes Hollywood-based, Texas-born bronco rider Jacob (a painfully stiff Ted Ryan), sappily standing his ground as his unlikely girlfriend, Beth (Tess Christiansen)—a tattooed, left-wing street pundit with an encyclopedic mind for platitudes—retracts a relationship-killing ultimatum ("Grow up and get a real job, cowboy"), winning her man via desperate compromise. Thus, the end of a hastily penned love story draws near, a narrative fraught with on-the-nose dialogue and one-dimensional characters.

It's difficult to say which of this production's dramatic failures is the most spectacular. The script, written by Ryan, contains flat comedy and predictable dramatic turns, while the direction (Audrey M. Singer) is as uninspired as the various performances.

At the outset, we find Jacob unable to perform in his beloved rodeos because his father has died. We soon meet Cliff (J. Christopher Sloan), Jacob's man-child roommate, a 40-something bachelor whose skirt-chasing and blue sense of humor have the potential to be hilarious but never transcend boring blow-job jokes and mind-numbing commentary on women as sex objects. As is the case with the majority of the characters here, Cliff is a one-dimensional type. Functioning solely as Jacob's foil, he babbles away about big tits while Jacob searches for true love. But our hero need look no further than the old couple who act as his surrogate parents, Vincent (Bert Hinchman) and Grace (Sheila Oaks), to get agonizingly trite lessons on lasting love. As Beth and Jacob fall more deeply in love, Jacob begins to regain his rodeo skills, aided by a therapist (Larry Lederman) who oversimplifies every major life problem Jacob is having, including Jacob's long-lost (thought to be dead) mother's schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder.

The whole thing has the feel of a rough draft written for a self-help workshop. It offers neither entertaining escapism nor a nugget of enlightenment.

Presented by and at the Actors Forum Theatre, 10655 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Oct. 1-30. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (323) 822-7898.

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