Agitprop theater is not fashionable these days, but The Rough Theater's "L.A. Book of the Dead" takes an earnest stab at social agitation.
Playing alternately at the Rose Theater in Venice and the Olio in Echo Park, the 10-character ensemble work wisely cloaks its post-apocalyptic L.A. horror tale in a style that incorporates Brechtian and Story Theater techniques with personal choreographic flair.
The most successful image is that of masks, used sparingly but tellingly, especially in the opening minutes when the actors materialize in their white, gargoylish masks, almost floating in a pool of dark light (deftly textured at the Rose by Daniel Street at the performance reviewed Wednesday).
Playwright Don Thompson's shifting time frames could be better defined. And co-directors Brent Morris and Dan Zellner--who are strong actors in the show--fail to build a desired momentum. But the troupe conveys a strong sense of communal energy.
Standouts are Tim Ottman's drill sergeant, Zellner's new wave singer, and Morris' computer analyst. Francesca Brenner's anchor woman and waitress are also vibrant caricatures.
Performances are at the Rose Theater, 318 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, Wednesdays and Sundays, 8 p.m., through Sept. 27, and at the Olio, 3709 Sunset Blvd., Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., through Oct. 6. Tickets: $7-$10; (213) 667-9556 for the Olio; (213) 392-6963 for the Rose.