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STAGE REVIEW : PREPARING FOR BETTER NEXT LIFE IN ‘REUNION’

Times Theater Critic

Certain notions strike the funny bone, and I was looking forward to seeing what the authors of “Reunion of Strangers” at the Main Stage Theater would do with this premise: “A man believes so strongly in reincarnation that he attempts to match-make his future parents for his next lifetime.”

Delicious. Which of us isn’t secretly convinced that he could have designed more suitable (and appreciative) parents for himself than nature did? What if you had the chance to audition your next set?

Playwrights John Bonaduce and Howard Delman have also had the amusing idea of setting their story in one of those smug suburban compounds, with its own lake, its own police force and its own jazz station. Its title: Hidden Acres, “a very guarded community.”

Unfortunately, the amusement ends there. “Reunion of Strangers” makes no sense at all as a story. In fact, there are moments when it seems to be telling two competing stories: Bonaduce’s version and Delman’s version.

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In one, the man in the orange hood who breaks into the bachelor’s house is, as advertised, a person looking for his next set of parents. In the other, he is as spirit from the Great Unknown regularly assigned to seeing that the right Jack gets the right Jill--sort of a Zen Dan Cupid (with Yiddish inflections, yet).

In both versions, it takes the whole first act to get to the point and the whole second act to get the bachelor and the girl together, which happens for no ascertainable reason other than that it is time to wind things up. Most of the play, in fact, seems devoted to finding reasons to keep this Jack and Jill apart--even after they have gone to bed together.

She seems to be a party girl, but may actually be a virgin in disguise . . . although we’re not sure about that either. He is a ski instructor whose father has written some books about sex . . . which is not the same as having an identifiable problem. Surprisingly, there’s not much talk about their potential as parents, which one had thought was the crux of the play.

There are also some awful scenes about how this Jack and Jill have met all through history, back to the pyramids. Picture a sitcom sponsored by the Rosicrucians and you will begin to apprehend the confusions of “Reunion of Strangers.” Yet, it remains a nifty premise for a comedy. Is there a play doctor in the house?

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The actors, directed by Bonaduce, aren’t as bad as their lines, although one wouldn’t want to go so far as to call them good. Mark Tymchyshyn does best as the mildly troubled bachelor, with Larry Gelman second as the agent from Beyond and Julia Jennings a rather distant third as the perhaps-virgin. Jill Garber’s set design looks expensive and probably wasn’t. She, at least, knows how to get the most out of her material. “Reunion of Strangers” plays Thur.-Sun. at 8, Sun. at 3, through June 23; 12135 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood. (213) 851-3771.


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