"Getting Out" has moved from the Burbage Theatre to the downtown Los Angeles Theatre Center's experimental space, Theatre 4. It is both a capable revival of Marsha Norman's play and an example of why the Equity-Waiver scene had to change.
Norman's play concerns a young woman leaving a prison cell for the putative freedom of a one-room apartment. We see Arlene as she is now (Pamela Harris) and Arlie as she was behind bars (Laurie Lathem).
But there is no "then" in "Getting Out." The muted Arlene and the gritty Arlie inhabit parallel worlds and in the end reunite, leaving us somewhat hopeful about Arlene's ability to make her way. It also helps that she's found a friend (Rosie Lee Hooks).
At Theatre 4, we sit under the catwalk in Arlie's prison, noticing the crumbs on Arlene's floor. The lighting is bright, almost glary, and there's an occasional squawk from the squawk box. Set designer Scott Storey, lighting designer J. Kent Inasy and sound designer Steve Barr have done their homework.
Joel Asher's cast isn't as authentic. Everyone is in the right ballpark, and the story is forcefully told. But Pamela Harris' Arlene seems more phlegmatic than beaten down, and Laurie Lathem's Arlie is a bit too well-scrubbed. We need more pathology and a clearer sense of where these two connect.
As for the crumbs in Arlene's life, Michael Arabian couldn't be better as Carl. This is a true scuzzball, but not from his point of view, which is how Arabian approaches him. Sponging off women is a weary business.
Edith Fields is also believable as Arlene's mother, a pretty woman who has made a career out of looking the other way. And Hooks does well as the woman upstairs, who tells it like it is. There are half a dozen others in the cast too, all competent actors who deserve to be paid for their work, but won't be, until the investors in the show have been paid off.
Producers Suzanne Battaglia and Nancy Penoyer acknowledged at Friday's opening that the move from the Burbage to LATC puts that turn-around moment further off. But the move also gives the show and the cast increased visibility, so the actors agreed to go along with it.
"Nobody is making any money off of this," Battaglia and Penoyer said. "Not even LATC. They're giving us a real break on the rent."
That's good. But when will it be realized that the actors in small-theater are "investors" too, putting both their time and talent into the show? It was Equity Waiver's last weekend under the old rules, where the actors can work for nothing. We're not sorry that chapter has ended.
Plays Thursdays-Sundays at 8 p.m. Closes Oct. 23. Tickets $18. Los Angeles Theatre Center 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles (213) 627-5599.
Marsha Norman's play, at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Producers Suzanne Battaglia and Nancy Penoyer. Director Joel Asher. Fight choreographer John Robert Beardsley. Assistant director Sandy Cleary. Setting Scott Storey. Lighting J. Kent Inasy. Sound Steve Barr. Costumes and props Penoyer and Battaglia. With Pamela Harris, Laurie Lathem, Jeff Doucette, Anthony Palermo, Stu Levin, Atticus Fleury, Edith Fields, Connie Evans, Michael Arabian, Jerry Boyd, Rosie Lee Hooks.