‘Acts of Grace’: Well-Acted, Uneven


The Grace Players in Hollywood have launched an ambitious festival of one-act plays called “Acts of Grace” (cute, huh?). Each of the three rotating bills at the Egyptian Arena Theatre features four pieces, some by well-known playwrights, others by newcomers. Based on the Thursday night program, the series seems generally well-acted if disappointingly uneven.

The most successful entry is Horton Foote’s “Spring Dance,” a wry, endearing peek at a group of patients in a Texas mental institution in the 1920s. Foote builds the piece shrewdly: The flirtatious Annie (Stefanie Milligan) appears to be a charming Southern belle, until we realize that her memory lapses and advanced denial make her more Blanche du Bois than Scarlett O’Hara. Solid support comes from Christopher Chisholm as a meek depressive and Christopher Wynne as a nervous Southern gentleman. Natalija Nogulich ably directed.

Nogulich stars in “The Divorce,” a strange, shakily executed comedy by Lynn Mamet (playwright David’s sister). Two friends, Annie (Nogulich) and Pennina (Carmela Rappazzo), argue and agonize over the end of their friendship, while Annie’s puzzled husband (Nicholas Surovy) observes. Mamet toys with the notion of women treating totally platonic relationships just as seriously as men regard sexual ones, but that idea is lost amid long patches of stilted dialogue. Avner Garbi directed.


The weakest efforts are “Hills Like White Elephants,” directed by Nogulich, an ungainly adaptation of an archetypal Ernest Hemingway story about two lovers (Mark Soper and Sydney Walsh) facing a personal crisis in a foreign country, and the Garbi-directed “Yes, Charlie Chaplin,” Marv Chernoff’s mawkish tale of a Holocaust survivor (Kathleen Walker) who unwittingly helps a middle-aged man (Earl Carroll) bond with his estranged son (Robert Ryel).

* “Acts of Grace,” Egyptian Arena Theatre, 1625 N. Las Palmas Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Ends Sept. 28. Free (suggested donation of $5). (213) 464-1222. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.