A Look at 'Bits' of a Widow's Loss

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and other students of grief might not approve, but Corinne Jacker's quirky "Bits and Pieces"--a 1974 dark comedy receiving its local premiere at Theatre 40--still has some valuable insights into death and loss.

Gita Donovan plays Iris, a middle-aged widow who is mourning her husband, a literature professor named Philip (Robert Boardman), by seeking out patients who may have received one of his donated organs. Trekking from Italy to India, Iris' bizarre quest triggers intense flashbacks of their courtship and marriage.

For Iris, learning the fate of Philip's far-flung bits becomes a way of getting a piece of him back. And for Jacker, delivering a series of scene fragments "back and forth in time" becomes a way of capturing the full sweep of an ambivalent and complicated relationship.

At times the play has the sort of calculated dizziness that perhaps found better expression in Scott McPherson's "Marvin's Room." George Milan plays an elderly doctor who has an offhanded way of expressing sudden sexual urges. Iris' journeys are punctuated with such relevant tunes as Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Director Robert Neches manages to tap into the poignant side of Jacker's unusual tale, which benefits enormously from Donovan's delicate performance as the emotionally wavering Iris.

* "Bits and Pieces," Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Sundays-Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Ends July 3. $10. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

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