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STAGE REVIEW : Wolfe Tops ‘Aleph 2’ Sampler

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Storytelling for adults is hot. But the storytellers themselves are generally cool. Spalding Gray, Joe Frank and--to a lesser extent--Paul Linke remain relatively calm in the face of their extraordinary tales. They conceal their effects. They talk to us more than they perform for us--or at least this is the impression they convey.

Then there’s Kedric Robin Wolfe.

Wolfe’s latest creation, “Let Me Explain,” is the highlight of “Aleph 2,” a sampler of five performances, ranging from dance to stand-up character comedy, at the Wallenboyd in downtown Los Angeles.

Appearing last on the bill, the angular Wolfe rolls out on stage, all folded up inside a small, mobile cage. He begins talking about obsessive lovers. But he doesn’t just talk. As he begins to stretch his long, long limbs, he also stretches his words, swooping through his vocal register like a bird of prey.

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Finally, this bird pokes his head out of his cage. Then, as he begins telling us about a particularly obsessive love of his own, he leaves his cage and stalks the stage. He performs with the animation that people often use when telling stories to children.

This is no children’s story, though. It’s a ruefully hilarious--or hilariously rueful--shaggy dog story about a powerful but out-of-sync attraction between a man and a woman. Wolfe the writer uses language almost as well as Wolfe the performer uses his body. The combination is transfixing.

The rest of the show has ups and downs. “My Buddy” is the first monologue by Burke Byrnes since his full-length “America’s Finest.” In this one, Byrnes recalls a night from 1956, when a childhood idol suddenly fell from grace in a particularly brutal and ugly manner. It’s a tough reminder of the fact that time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds.

Scott Kelman directed “Let Me Explain” and “My Buddy,” but he wasn’t able to extract similar results from Shelly Bonus in her “Star Wars: Truth or Consequences!” The explicit political message here is secondary to the chance it provides for Bonus to show off her overdone gallery of comic grotesques. All too symptomatic of her work is her old Jewish woman, who can hardly breathe without uttering “Oy”--which spares Bonus the effort of inventing a more incisive way of characterizing her.

The other two acts are dance pieces: Linda Hammett’s “Habitats” and Gilberte Meunier’s “Wedding.” The first, engaging if hardly profound, depicts a woman’s flight from Stress Central to a more serene environment. “Wedding” opens with a stunning scenic image, as a statue (designed by Julie Keller) comes to life. But the rest of the piece--danced by Marcia Kellam--is an anticlimax.

Performances are at 301 Boyd St., Los Angeles. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., through May 21. Tickets: $9.50; (213) 629-2205.

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