A falling star and a fallen woman make up this late show at Santa Monica Playhouse. Under Julian Neil's understanding direction, both women have their charms--in their disparate fashions.
First is Barbara Eaton's "Smoke & Mirrors," an incisive look at '30s superstar Jean Harlow. The script is crammed with detail, and looks as though it might be part of a larger work, but it does stand on its own. Harlow is just beginning to suffer from the kidney problems that led to her early death, and looks back on her wedding night and the drama that caused the injury.
The emotional maelstrom that followed Harlow to the top and the insecurity that kept her spinning there is affectingly limned by Paula Randol-Smith, with empathy and affection for Harlow's memory.
Next is a quiet charmer, Corinne Calvet in a "performed reading" of Diana Miller's adaptation of Michael Drury's "Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress." It's advice made more sage by Calvet's subtle wit and the fact that she is French. An American wife might have ignored the whole thing. As Angela, reading the missive many years after Matthew--the husband in question--is gone, Calvet savors the piece like a sip of Calvados.
At 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Wednesdays through Sundays, 10 p.m.; ends Sunday. $7.50; (213) 394-9779.