"The Supporting Cast" at La Habra Depot Playhouse comes up short on character comedy, shorter on slapstick and shortest of all on the kind of performances that might make this uneasy combination work.

Playwright George Furth has created an odd mix of goofy slapstick and contemporary character comedy in this tale about a writer whose roman a clef novel borrows from the private lives of her best friends. But the humor starts off on shaky ground (with guests at a Malibu beach house repeatedly running into a sliding glass door) and sinks from there--all the way down to an earthquake in a series of running gags that slam the Southern California life style.

Furth wants to make a point about the unsung heroes who spend their lives in the shadow of celebrities, but just as soon as he manages to work up sympathy for his characters, he turns them into publicity gluttons eager to sell their private lives for a slice of notoriety. It makes for an uncomfortably facile conclusion to a plot that already strains credibility.

The most credible aspect of the La Habra production is director Robert Sessions' attractive set, a shingled beach house with a multilevel redwood deck. His cast is considerably less convincing; this likeable but naive bunch simply won't wash as a budding best-selling novelist, a movie superstar's spouse, a respected conductor's mother, a congressman's wife and a well-known playwright's husband.

D. D. Calhoun fares best as Mae, the flustered mother of a famous young conductor; she manages to find warmth and self-effacing humor in the role of a woman contemplating a second marriage. Forrest Robinson also has some funny moments as the hapless husband of a major playwright, a man who is outraged by what the novelist has revealed about him because he sees the unflattering truth in it. But nagging delivery and timing problems pester the cast, and the pacing turns sluggish as a result.

"The Supporting Cast" will play through June 28 at La Habra Depot Playhouse, 311 S. Euclid Ave., La Habra. For information, call (213) 694-1011, Ext. 271.

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