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‘Blue Corridor’ a Therapeutic Journey

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

‘Tis the season to be depressed.

Alongside the turkeys and trees and menorahs, each holiday season can get you down. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve, psychiatrists work overtime. But more therapeutic than a 50-minute hour might be a trip through “Blue Corridor” at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Nov. 22, 1993 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday November 22, 1993 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 9 Column 1 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Pianist’s name-- Gary Simmons was the pianist at the performance of “Blue Corridor” reviewed in Friday’s Calendar. Because the program failed to note the correct pianist, the alternate pianist’s name appeared in the review.

“Blue Corridor” is no shock corridor. Composer Mimi Seton’s revue offers a gentle, soothing, painless antidote to the blues. It’s the musical equivalent of psychotropic drugs. There are few highs and no lows. At times its trance effect is similar to Philip Glass at his least confrontational. But more often the hypnotic mood induced by “Blue Corridor” echoes the Los Angeles radio station calling itself “The Wave.”

Partially a pastiche of numbers from Seton and director Mark Bringelson’s previous collaborations (“Brain Hotel,” “Wazo Wazo,” “See Below Middle Sea”), the narrative occurs in a twilight zone between sleep and waking. The eight-member ensemble, accompanied by three spirited musicians (Eddie Field, John Harvey, Alan Axelrod), move through a variety of poses and scenes. Character is reduced to shadowy outlines enhancing the dream metaphor. Eddie Bledsoe’s shrewd costumes range from formal gowns to pajamas, with no motivation given and none required.

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Jason Loewith’s minimal, abstract set perfectly backdrops the music. Ropes stretch across the theater’s walls, resembling musical bars. Choreographer Zonnie Bauer’s inspired conceit has the performers climbing the ropes until they seem like notes moving across a score.

The women singers are superb. Hope Levy interprets the title lament with an exquisite mix of irony and heartbreak. “I am blue because that’s what I do best,” Levy sings, deliciously. “I’m the queen of self-pity. . . .”

The most powerful voice belongs to Michele Mais, whose booming delivery should splinter the coldest of hearts. Nicole Niblack’s poignant “Lullabye” and Kathyrn Skatula’s haunted “Mother Falling” prove spellbinding.

Unfortunately, the male members of the ensemble fall far below the women’s standard. None possess a dynamic presence or compelling vocal range. It’s as if the emotional depths of “Blue Corridor” are naturally navigated by women, while men struggle in vain to swim through the unconscious. But while a female sensibility rules the Odyssey stage, “Blue Corridor” provides invaluable musical therapy.

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* “Blue Corridor,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Dec. 19. $17.50-$21.50. (310) 477-2055. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

‘Time In,’ ‘Beings’ a Mixed Offering

Time is everything at the New One-Act Theatre Ensemble in Hollywood. Julia Rader’s “Time-In” intrudes clocks between a workaholic journalist (Ilo Orleans) and his lover (Michele Spears). He’s driven by deadlines, while she’s . . . well, it’s difficult to decide precisely what Kitten is driven by. There are few clues to her character, other than a consuming ambition to take baths and make love. The perplexing clash of surreal and natural sequences undermine Rader’s best writing--simply describing a relationship that’s out of sync.

“Ten Beings Best,” Patrick McGowan’s ambitious satire on telemarketing research companies, aches to become a full-length play--and deservedly. Under Steven Benson’s droll direction, 10 gifted actors re-create the reality of office politics and the arbitrary nature of statistics. However, McGowan isn’t just lampooning the ludicrous. This playwright sees diabolical implications in our society’s obeisance to numbers. From box-office figures to foreign policy, we rate life by percentages, and this, says McGowan, is potentially catastrophic.

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Therefore, on a scale of one-to-10, “Ten Beings Best” gets a nine.

* “Time In” and “Ten Beings Best,” New One-Act Theatre Ensemble, 1705 N. Kenmore, Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 18. $5-$10. (213) 666-5550. Running time: 2 hours.

‘Up With Puberty!’ Covers Tired Ground

They call themselves Theatre-A-Go-Go! and these Chicago kids hilariously rule weekend late nights at the Coast Playhouse. They’ve mocked pop culture heroines such as Patty Hearst and celebrated villains like Charles Manson, each time with inspired irreverence. This humor works because they dare to laugh at the sacred. However, “Up With Puberty!” is exhausted territory, over-mined by stand-up comics and sitcoms. To invent anything new and adventurous about adolescence requires either genius or, in this case, outrageousness.

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And so Theatre-A-Go-Go! stoops to gross-out jokes. A physically handicapped loner lets her nerd boyfriend pop pimples and lick the pus. A virgin panics over her first menstruation. It’s all a self-conscious flashback narrated by Nurse Nightingale (Benjamin Zook, a hoot) during a school assembly.

There are genuine sequences of inspiration--a naked soft-shoe dance in the gym’s showers, and a chorus line of masturbating boys--but for the majority of “Up With Puberty” we’re up against the wall, reliving the worst time of our lives.

* “Up With Puberty!,” Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Indefinitely. $9.99. (213) 883-9536. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

You’ll Be Yawning Before ‘World Ends’

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One thing you’ll ask yourself after “Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends” is why actors Kevin Carr and D. C. Douglas enjoy themselves so thoroughly. Subtitled “A Final Evening With the Illuminati” and billed as a benefit for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the interminable piece at Hollywood Court Theatre comes off as a bizarre initiation rite for some unnamed fraternity.

One illumination the actors might need: What is the text trying to say? Surely writers Larry Larson and Levi Lee had a few points to make about organized religion, the nature of faith and the absurdity of ritual. Alas, Carr and Douglas as minister and acolyte prefer to play themselves rather than the play, reducing this to an actor’s exercise that preaches to the converted.

* “Some Things You Need to Know Before the World Ends,” Hollywood Court Theatre, 6817 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Indefinite run. $13. (213) 228-9397. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

‘James Dean’ Badly Misses Its Target

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Wil. Hall apparently modeled his characterization of James Dean on the wrong Jimmy. In “James Dean, the Night Before,” Hall resembles Jim Stark, the confused teen-ager from “Rebel Without a Cause.” While “interviewed” by a journalist in the cozy confines of Kafe Kafka, Hall wears the red windbreaker and assumes the arrogant swagger associated with Dean’s Stark. He forgets that the off-camera Dean was a notorious slob, wore thick glasses, had a severe drinking problem and was acutely career conscious. Hall prefers the studio’s manufactured persona to the actual personality.

The brief encounter is scripted by Dan Sefton (doubling as the journalist) around the last interview Dean gave before his fatal car accident. It’s basic celebrity docudrama that might satisfy Dean fans.

* “James Dean, The Night Before,” Kafe Kafka, 6069 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays,7 p.m., Sundays, 1 p.m., Mondays,7 p.m. Ends Nov. 29. $25 (includes dinner). (213) 464-3938, (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 2 hours.


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