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Field Trips Across Mental Landscapes

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This is a different “Dr. Galley” than the one a few years ago at Theatre East. It’s the same play, by Conrad Bromberg, with the same psychological twists and turns, but the two performances are as night to day, proving how strong the writing and characterization are.

In this incarnation, teamed at Actors Forum with Marc Mantell’s “Apartments,” William Douglas Smith is levelheaded and quite controlled as practicing psychiatrist Robert Galley, lecturing to a friend’s class. Galley begins to tell a client’s unusual story, but soon he lets us know he’s talking about himself. Rather, he is talking about his wife, their disastrous marriage, and the men--a derelict and a tubercular-looking young folk singer--who claim to have been her lovers.

As he progresses, he digresses, and we see the cracks in Galley’s view of life, himself and his wife. Smith gives a hypnotic performance, with only one flaw: He allows Galley to be much too good an actor when he dons the personalities of those in his tale.

The inhabitant of one of the apartments in Mantell’s “Apartments” says, “When I’m lying in bed, what if the inner me decides to go on a field trip?” In Eve Sigall’s one-woman performance, a field trip is exactly what the play becomes, from apartment to apartment, from a desperate lady out on the town to find 20-year-olds, to an overweight obsessive eater who’s calmed by ice cream, to a failed tap dancer at the end of her dance. There’s little hope in their lives, and Sigall sensitively and expertly clues us in on why.

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“Apartments” & “Dr. Galley,” Actors Forum, 3365 1/2 Cahuenga Blvd. West. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Sept. 29. $12; (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours.

Actors Rise Above Shallow ‘City’ Limits

The publicity for these two one-acts at the Burbage Theatre, under the umbrella title “City ‘Scapes,” says they give a “non-sugarcoated look at young black men in the inner city and the elements that mold them.” It’s true they aren’t sugarcoated. But neither do they dig very deeply.

What lingers afterward is the memory of several performances that rise above the simplistic, preachy plotting of Erwin Washington’s “The Dreamer,” and the thinness of Ehrich Van Lowe’s “The Running of the Wolves.”

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“The Dreamer” is a successful black engineer (Jerry Boyd) who wants to start a theater in his old neighborhood. In the building of his dreams, he discovers a 17-year-old drug dealer, hiding his stash and cash there. After burning the kid’s cocaine and $32,000 savings, he tries to turn him around by offering him a job as an actor. With good reason, the kid wants to kill him--but is thwarted by an overly melodramatic twist.

Director Bruce Nelson doesn’t give most of the performances very clear shape, but Christopher M. Brown’s spring-coiled, angry performance as the boy is the play’s high point.

Washington does better as a director for Van Lowe’s “Wolves,” in which three teen-age toughs burglarize the home of one of their teachers, now retired. The loot is not the game here, but supremacy in the pack. Brown is joined by Larron Tate as the straight-A student gone bad out of hero worship, and Eugene Williams as the tinsel god he adores--three engrossing performances in a slight but well-crafted play about male bonding in its darkest light.

“City ‘Scapes,” Burbage Theatre, 2330 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles. Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Oct. 27. $15; (213) 478-0897. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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Age-Old Problems Afflict ‘Sunshine Boys’

Lewis and Clark are back--not the explorers, but Neil Simon’s decaying vaudeville team being hustled for one final TV appearance. The idea is doomed. “The Sunshine Boys” split up 12 years before in an emotional thunderstorm and it’s still raining on their friendship.

Under Howard Morris’ direction at Woodland Hills’ Center Stage, Simon’s frail piece lopes along at a leisurely pace, particularly in Morris’ own performance as Al Lewis. It’s not so much a performance as a revival of one of his “Show of Shows” characters. It’s OK, but it’s overshadowed by Brian Keith’s engaging, original Clark.

Keith settles into his role as if it were Clark’s dilapidated robe, and his gentle but sharp comic timing sometimes gives Clark more dimension than he deserves. The rest of the cast is less rounded, overplaying to excess.

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“The Sunshine Boys,” Center Stage, 20929 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Oct. 13. $19.50; (818) 904-0444. Running time: 2 hours.

‘Cole’ Company Lacks Style, Red-Hot Passion

In Anne Drecktrah’s staging of “Red, Hot & Cole,” a revue tribute to Cole Porter at Actors Alley in North Hollywood, most of the company isn’t anywhere near the style of the period they’re playing.

They’re somewhat like eager youngsters dressed up in their parents’ gowns and tuxes, playing Sophisticate. And the parlor piano treatment musical director Debbie Sherman gives the score is like Lawrence Welk conducting a Broadway pit band. She likes her Porter pretty, not passionate.

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However, Joe Garcia’s Porter sounds and looks the period, particularly in “I’m a Gigolo.” The writers give him an advantage in being truthful about Porter’s sex life. This also helps the good performances of Duchess Dale as his wife of convenience Linda, and Rob Narita as the generic man in his life. Narita’s “Begin the Beguine” is especially strong.

“Red, Hot & Cole,” Actors Alley, 12135 Riverside Dr., North Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Oct. 3, Nov. 3, 2 p.m. Ends Nov. 16. $15; (818) 508-4200. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Clever Soap Spoofing Keeps ‘No Life’ Lively

Tune in tomorrow to find out what’s happening in the fictional town of Santa Lucia, California. Or drop in to Upfront Comedy Showcase in Santa Monica at noon on Fridays and watch this bright company take your audience suggestions and improvise the current week’s chapter of “No Life to Live.”

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Storylines would be superfluous, but let it suffice that Rev. Nolan Johannes (Andy Wolmering) is a serial killer of young girls (“God wanted them dead!”) and Santa Lucia’s other inhabitants aren’t much better.

Improv is always chancy. But this group’s average is high. They’re inventive, they have a flair for improvising songs, and they look like they’re having fun.

“No Life to Live,” Upfront Comedy Showcase, 1452 3rd St., Santa Monica. Fridays, noon. Indefinitely. $3 show only; $5 with box lunch; (213) 319-3477. Running time: 45 minutes.

A Little Professionalism Needed in ‘Wanted’

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Grubb Graebner saw a story in the news, about a woman who killed a pregnant woman, ripped out her unborn child and claimed it was her own. He decided to make it into a play called “Wanted.”

Wanted: someone to explain to Graebner that a first draft for a screenplay is not a play. Wanted: someone other than director Jonathan Tolins to explain to Graebner that sloppy writing can’t be hidden behind melodramatic events--and to the actors that screaming their lungs out every three minutes is not acting.

Graebner should know that “stepparents” are not adoptive parents, that there are no “privates” in the Air Force, and that when there are a dozen cartons of eggs in the frig, another dozen is not needed. Didn’t Theatre of NOTE read this one first?

“Wanted,” Theatre of NOTE, 1705 N. Kenmore Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. $10; (213) 666-5550. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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