STAGE REVIEW : Glimpsing 'The Sorrows of Stephen'

Poor Stephen. He's obsessed with women--or at least with the notion of being obsessed with women. But he's not a sexual scorekeeper. He's a romantic. Though he sells real estate in contemporary Manhattan, he models his love life on that of Goethe's Werther.

He has two problems: Some women don't cooperate with his fantasies. And other women do.

Such are "The Sorrows of Stephen," in the comedy of the same name by Peter Parnell at the Rose Theatre.

It's an amusing series of short scenes, generally executed with savvy in Bob McAndrew's staging. As Stephen, Jon Lindstrom has dreamy eyes and a properly sappy smile whenever he gazes on a potential love object.

Kim Maxwell, playing his current one and only, has the upper-crust look of someone who would be at home in the Plaza Hotel, which is where Stephen takes her, even though she is his best friend's intended.

As that best friend, Tom Sexton catches the rhythms of someone who's too busy to look at what's happening right under his nose. Julia Morgan, Regan McLemore and Symie deliver skilled glimpses of some of the other women in Stephen's life. There were a few small, surprising stumbles over lines the other day, but nothing that set the play off track.

Pip Logan created urbane illustrations of cityscapes that, projected on a screen, serve as most of the scenic design. This didn't prevent the blackouts between scenes from becoming excessive as the rest of the modular scenery was moved around (not always successfully--a potted plant blocked some of the sight lines in a scene at the opera), but a sound track of lush romantic music somewhat filled the gaps.

The play doesn't dig very far into what makes Stephen tick. We chuckle at Stephen more than we feel what he's experiencing. Nor did Parnell develop the contrast between what Stephen does for money and what he does for love.

The play is a trivial pursuit. But it's enjoyable while it lasts.

At 318 Lincoln Blvd. (rear entrance), Venice, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., through Sept. 24. Tickets: $10; (213) 392-6963.

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