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Review: Other voices but not its own in 'Se Llama Cristina'

Arts and CultureReviewsSam Shepard

In "Se Llama Cristina," Octavio Solis' unsteady new play now at the Theatre @ Boston Court, a man and a woman wake after fitful dreams to find themselves trapped in a real-life nightmare they can neither escape nor understand.

Prisoners in a room, Man (Justin Huen) and Woman (Paula Christensen) try to make sense of the objects strewn around them — heroin works, a bassinet holding a chicken drumstick rather than a baby. Their own identities are an even greater source of confusion — and blaring contention.

The dramatic situation — part Franz Kafka, part William S. Burroughs, with a dollop of Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit" thrown in for good measure — may have you experiencing déjà vu.

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The missing baby evokes the work of Edward Albee. The violent intrusion of Abel (Christian Rummel), Woman's redneck telephone repairman husband, smacks of Sam Shepard. The way in which Man and Woman playact possible versions of their story might have you thinking of Luigi Pirandello.

This jumble of 20th century texts by Solis, an established playwright whose play "Lydia" was produced at the Mark Taper Forum in 2009, is given a Latino accent. (Three of the four characters are of Mexican descent.) But the work fails to find a distinctive voice of its own.

Robert Castro's production is unhelpfully abstract. The set design by the artist known as Gronk transforms the apartment setting into a postmodern no man's land, a prison demarcated by fluorescent strips of lighting.

If ever there were a play that needed to be grounded in a recognizable locale, it is this one. The stylized staging compounds the sense of a playwright chasing shadows.

The performers submit to the emotional demands of Solis' relentlessly boisterous 80-minute script, but the sound and fury are more exhausting than edifying. The experience is akin to having a front row seat at the presentation of a stranger's nonsensical bad dream.

charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

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'Se Llama Cristina'

Where: The Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 North Mentor Ave., Pasadena

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. (Call for exceptions.) Ends Feb. 23.

Tickets: $34

Contact: (626) 683-6883 or http://www.BostonCourt.org

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

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