STAGE REVIEWS : 'Judevine' Echoes Grover's Corners

"Judevine" is a poetic drama similar in tone and heartbeat to Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." Instead of Wilder's Grover's Corners, N.H., we have David Budbill's Judevine (pronounced ju-dee-vine ), a fictional town in Vermont.

The production at the Matrix may echo other work--Edgar Lee Masters' "Spoon River Anthology" also comes to mind--but the tapestry is sufficiently distinctive to create a world all its own. It was distilled by Budbill from his collection of rustic poems and artfully staged by Sharon Rosen.

The show, with its encompassing canvas, is a natural for schools and student groups. But its literary format--the interweaving monologues of 24 characters played by nine actors--also produces an unvarying, horizontal rhythm that sabotages momentum. The actors, nevertheless, are distinct (notably Robert M. Duncan's narrator, Shawn Paper's Vietnam vet, Warren Sweeney's old married man and Charles Zeleny's French Canadian lumberjack).

The set design by Julia Beeding is a stunning sculptured melange of the town's cultural artifacts, and Peter Carlyle Sukovaty's lighting design is another artful feature.

* "Judevine," Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Hollywood, Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sunday, 7 p.m., Saturday-Sunday matinees, 2 p.m. Ends May 3. $14-$17. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours.

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