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Engaging Actors in Flawed ‘Park’

“Gramercy Park Is Closed to the Public,” at the Hudson, has a sweetly ingenuous quality, as if a young schoolgirl had opened her personal diary for our perusal. Unfortunately, the play also contains florid plot twists more appropriate to a daytime soap.

Toni Ann Johnson, who wrote the play, also appears as Luna, the offspring of a biracial marriage, caught between two cultures.

After her white boyfriend is killed in a senseless incident on the subway, Luna gives birth to his child, opens a small health club, and begins getting back to her black roots, much to the delight of her proudly black grandma (Vivian Smallwood).

Luna’s star-crossed relationship with a white cop, Neil (James Dumont), culminates in the shooting of an impoverished black youth (Damian Cagnolatti), a tragedy for which both Luna and Neil blame themselves.

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Johnson’s characters relate their feelings a bit too glibly, and the various crises, particularly the death of the near-saintly youth, seem forced.

The actors are engaging, particularly Smallwood as the feisty grandmother, but their efforts cannot ultimately redeem Johnson’s well-intentioned but faulty dramaturgy.

* “Gramercy Park Is Closed to the Public,” Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Ends July 3. $15. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.


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