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THEATER REVIEWS : New Troupe Can’t Save ‘Fefu and Her Friends’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Warehouse Workers, a fledgling production company that sees its mission as putting actresses to work, has had the misfortune of making its Orange County debut with a revival of “Fefu and Her Friends,” by Maria Irene Fornes.

While the play does require a large all-female cast, the only good thing about “Fefu and Her Friends” is the title. Everything after that is downhill.

When this play won an Obie Award in 1977, they must have been giving out prizes for pretentiousness.

Any troupe would have to be made of miracle workers, let alone warehouse workers, to breathe life into the script. The eight amateur actresses doing “Fefu” in their makeshift space at a Santa Ana warehouse don’t stand a chance against the bogus contrivances of the plot, the stilted speeches or the pregnant silences of Barbara Covington’s labored direction.

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Except for Gabrielle Beimforde’s understated portrayal of a jilted lesbian, none of the performances illuminates this opaque melodrama about a group of women who have gathered at Fefu’s house ostensibly to plan a fund-raiser but really to flay us with their secret torments and disappointments. Beimforde has a natural, even sensuous stage presence. The rest of the cast succumbs rather too easily to awkward histrionics and academic posturing.

Company founder Akemi Royer and co-producers Lauren Michelle Daniels and Laurie Messerly--all of whom have major roles in “Fefu"--had planned to take this production to another warehouse in Santa Monica to showcase it again. Since the opening, however, they’ve changed their minds.

Wise choice.

‘Fefu and Her Friends’ A Warehouse Workers presentation of the play by Maria Irene Fornes. Directed by Barbara Covington. Produced by Akemi Royer. Associate producers: Lauren Michelle Daniels and Laurie Messerly. Lighting and set design by Sandi Sullivan. Costume design by Nichole Horiuchi. With Royer, Messerly, Daniels, Glynis Rigsby, Laura Hinsberger, Gabrielle Beimforde, Karen Razler and Sarah Noonan. At 3701 W. Moore Ave., Santa Ana. Performances Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m. Running time 1 hour, 45 minutes (no intermission). $15. (714) 848-2022.

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