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LA Theater Review

The Illustrious Birth of Padraic T. Duffy

It's fascinating stuff to think about: the relationship between an artist and an artist's creation, the self as creator, and the artist as, well, God—"in his own image," and all that. Unfortunately, it's not all that interesting to watch a play about it, even if that play contains fabulous material, wonderful actors, and a nice, freewheeling vibe that handles the playwright's twists and turns without breaking a sweat.

The story of The Illustrated Birth of Padraic T. Duffy, by Padraic Duffy, is a sort of whacked-out creation myth set in 1974, which finds Jerry Brown (Brendan Hunt), Jesus (Jeremy Shranko), and a justifiably insecure alternate quarterback for the World Football League (Chris Carmack) vying for the attention of a young writer, Jay (Josh Brener, alternating with Brett DelBuono), who's desperately looking for something to write about. Good thing his incredibly supportive parents (Alicia Wollerton and Rod McLachlan) are willing to dive into the well of dysfunction to supply him with material. Oh, Jay's also got writing tips from Richard Nixon (John Prosky) and canciónes from the singing babysitter, Linda Ronstadt (Lauren Lee Santos). And we all benefit from the smooth, chocolaty goodness of Jacques (Ozborne Williams), who may actually be the man in charge—of what, we're not sure.

Director Chris Fields has a sure hand on the proceedings. In addition to getting great work from each performer, he has assembled a snappy team of designers. Audrey Eisner's 1970s costumes are super, and Drew Dalzell's sound design works beautifully to guide us, 8-track style, through the evening's clever rants, very Brady silliness, and recurring "What are you doing in my bedroom?"
moments. But, ultimately, Duffy's Illustrated Birth plays as an extended stream-of-consciousness sketch, which goes some amusing places but never quite lands on anything that sticks with us or is, well, revelatory—"in the beginning," and all that. 

Presented by the Echo Theatre Company at Stage 52, 5299 W. Washington Blvd., L.A. July 10Aug. 9. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (800) 413-8669.

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