"Art Violated," three one-acts at the West Coast Theatre Ensemble, dramatizes variations on the theme of beauty abused: A young man on Death Row finds solace through Beethoven; an artist is threatened with censorship and interrogated for antisocial behavior, and an objector to the Vietnam War movingly juxtaposes the loss of buddies to beautiful trees turned into coffins.
In all three cases, the shadow of destruction clouds the potential for grace and beauty. One-acts with unifying material are more satisfying than an evening of disparate works. But the results here, in a production featuring different writers, directors and actors, are uneven.
Best of the trio is Andrew Campbell's "American Basswood," poetically directed by Eileen Frank and impressively acted by Stan Roskins, Gregg Rainwater and James Bailey. Painful memories of Roskins' conscientious objector materialize through imagined reflections in the polished marble of the Vietnam War Monument.
"Beethoven Symphonies" by Richard Ohanesian, directed by Richard Large, poses the irony of a condemned killer (Michael Donovan) whose final wish is playing Beethoven records. Billy Bob Thornton is solid as a prison administrator, but Doug Langdale's medical executioner is an overripe caricature. The play is rather turgid but its death by injection is a chilling and lingering detail.
Steven Luther's "Lenny" is a bad dream of a dark comedy, directed by Laura J. Graham and well acted by Michael Abrams' desperate and persecuted painter and Joe Whyte's interrogator. But Ellerine Harding gets away with outrageous, tiresome farce and Andy Philpot is ineffective in a key guard role. Weird.
Performances run at 6240 Hollywood Blvd., Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m., through Sept. 30. Tickets: $5; (213) 871-1052.