Critic's Choice

Looking for love at Unicorns 'n Things? The screwball rom-com 'Past Time'

“Just because something is imaginary doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

So goes “Past Time,” Sacred Fools Theater Company's inaugural production in its new home at the Lillian Theatre, a felicitous match-up.

As deceptively slight and hilariously quirky as a shelf of painted unicorns, playwright Padraic Duffy’s intergenerational romantic comedy is generally charming, funny and effective.

Transpiring in winking chapters projected atop the rainbow-hued proscenium of designer DeAnne Millais’ whimsical set, “Past Time” opens with a screwball-worthy debate between retiree James (Leon Russom, wonderfully acute) and Lou (a valiant French Stewart), the enigmatic friend who has drafted James and his den for Lou’s Unicorns 'n Things kiosk at the mall. That disturbs Delilah (Ruth Silveira), James’ wife, employed at the nearby Candles 'n Stuff.

James and Delilah’s unmoored grandson, Chris (engagingly daft Josh Weber), is preoccupied with his disastrous date -- the eighth -- with Meredith (a wry Julia Griswold), who likens their meetings to insufficiently anesthetized eye surgery.

For the initial vignettes, “Past Time” is modestly pleasant post-absurdism, if over-reliant on the arts-and-crafts imagery and Duffy’s trademark deadpan non sequiturs.

But when Chris drafts James as stand-in at Chris’ last-chance date with Meredith, Duffy tacitly raises the stakes as both couples discover forgotten/unsuspected attraction through switching generational roles.

Director Jeremy Aldridge pulls every color possible from the script’s metaphoric palette, aided by witty designers, particularly Lisa Anne Nicolai’s props, and his cast does yeoman work. Russom and Silveira are hysterical assessing each other anew from a younger perspective.

Conversely, Weber and Griswold make an endearingly mismatched duo. Their growing old together may be hastily achieved, but it's one of Duffy’s sweetest brushstrokes. And Stewart, whose somewhat functionary character carries the serio-comic point, locates an internal mournful pulse that touchingly lands by the fade-out.

Actually, the play could bear more such honest sentiment, and the theater-class analogies scream for expansion. Still, “Past Time” is consistently enjoyable and an ideal date show.

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“Past Time”

Where: Sacred Fools at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 26.

Tickets: $25

Info: (310) 281-8337 or www.sacredfools.org

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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