Too-Heavy Touch Hurts 'Execution'

From the tone of his play, "The Execution," it becomes obvious that Andrew Young, himself a former U.S. Marine, has an ax to grind with the Corps. And grind it he does, to a nub, in his drama about seven Marines who have been ordered to participate in a firing squad detail.

The result is often more bludgeoning than lacerating, as in one particularly gratuitous flashback sequence, during which we see the fatal altercation that resulted in the young Marine's sentence of death. Although it is a somewhat callow and heavy-handed examination of corruption in the military, Young's play does succeed on an atavistic level, as a candid and disturbing glimpse into a primal male dynamic. Judging from Young's characters, it's a short haul from the cave to the barracks.

Anthony DiPietro directs with a fierce energy that keeps the play from foundering under its own melodramatic excess weight. The talented actors in the cast attack their roles like they are storming a beachhead. Pierson Blaetz chills as the gung-ho Private Monge, who, as the execution approaches, becomes as eager as a hunting dog for its blooding.

Although Young's provocative play vacillates between drama and diatribe, it's a promising, passionate debut for the new Asylum Theatre Company.

* "The Execution," Improv Theatre, 8156 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends April 22. $15. (213) 651-2583. Running time 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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