Looking for the Real Item

"I wanted to show good people driving each other crazy," said Tim Boland, whose five-character "Love Mad" opens tonight at the Cast Theatre.

The setting is Manhattan. The subject, contemporary relationships. "Everyone is starving for correct love in their lives," the playwright said. "A lot of us have incorrect love. There's also temporariness in our society, a lack of loyalty. In spite of that, you see a great need for people to commit, to stay together."

The piece, which is directed by Kent Minault, was originally presented at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival--to a charged response.

"One guy in the lobby said, 'Does he have a tape recorder in our bedrooms?' That made me feel good, because it meant I was hitting it on the head. But the play also got a lot of people angry. The three male characters speak frankly, sometimes chauvinistically. One woman said, 'I don't like these men.' I said, 'That's the point.' "

Since that staging, Boland has done some rewriting. "I felt I had to deepen it with the hurt of the characters," he said. "Their past histories now move them in ways that can be self-destructive; they're working on that pain. But the most important thing is that people identify with them. They're not amoral yuppies into Wall Street greed. They're nice people . They've established their priorities in relationships--and now they're banging heads, struggling to get the commitments they need."

THEATER FILE: Mark Harelik's hero will joust with Robin Gammell's devil in Vaclav Havel's "Temptation" opening July 13 at the Mark Taper Forum. . . . Howard Korder's "Boys' Life" opens July 7 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, featuring Jon Cryer.

The Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival opens its 12th season tomorrow at Cal State Northridge Art and Design Center. Festival performances begin July 20 with the Los Angeles premieres of Susan Mosakowski's "Cities Out of Print," Martin Epstein's "The Ordeal of Nancy Fergusson," John Pappas' "Increments of Three" and Alan Bolt's "Amado Amor." Plus new works by John Steppling, Julie Hebert, Leon Martell and Maria Irene Fornes. A benefit featuring a retrospective selection of works presented at previous festivals will be held July 9.

Strike Theatre's "3 for 1!" (Harry Kondoleon's "The Fairy Garden," Margurite MacIntyre's "To Live and Die Like a Cactus" and Nancy Bever's "Attack of the Moral Fuzzies") opens Friday at the Callboard, where it will play in rep with "The Revengers."

"Free, Adult and Uncensored," a dramatic reading of "A Cast of Thousands," will take place at LATC July 10, benefiting the West Coast archives of the WPA Federal Theatre Project. Featured are Roscoe Lee Browne, Jeff Corey, Lee Grant, Ellen Geer, Burt Lancaster, Burgess Meredith, Joe Spano "and many others."

CRITICAL CROSS FIRE: Steve Carter's "Eden" is playing at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, with Carl Lumbly reprising his 1980 role as a narrow-minded West Indian separationist bullying his family--and putting the kibosh on his daughter's romance with an American black. Ed Cambridge directs.

Said Sylvie Drake in The Times: "If Carter's point is that one can never escape the claws of a tyrannical father, (the ending) reduces the play from one that would take on significant questions of race and intra-ethnic prejudice to mere kitchen-sink drama."

Noted Tom Jacobs in the Daily News: " Eden' is a genuine tragedy. It's an old-fashioned, three-act naturalistic play in which the characters explain their motivations in magnificent monologues, and the ending manages to feel both surprising and inevitable."

From the Herald Examiner's Richard Stayton: "Carter is no August Wilson. The garrulous talk and obvious setups rarely soar into mythic territory, as happens frequently in Wilson's 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' or 'Fences.' It's a scholarly examination--period."

In the Reader, Alison Sloane applauded "a complex tale of oppression and intraracial separatism, buoyed by a gifted cast and skilled direction . . . Much of 'Eden's' power lies in its realism. Carter's richly developed characters are fraught with depth, complexity and human fallibility."

The Daily Breeze's Sandra Kreiswirth found the production "beautifully acted and technically enhanced by John Iacovelli's multilevel, well-appointed functional set; Douglas D. Smith's dim moody lights and Marianna Elliott's quietly elegant costumes."

And from Deborah Klugman in Drama-Logue: " 'Eden' is a fine play, tight and well-written and full of rich, believable dialogue and complex, intriguing characters. Its power is fueled by the performance of Carl Lumbly."

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