Skilled Performers Give Life to 'Life'

"Recalled to Life," writer-director Michael Van Duzer's comedy at St. Genesius Theatre, has a comforting message for the companions of AIDS patients--that there is closure in the grieving process, and that re-entry into life is indeed possible.

Van Duzer is careful not to trivialize suffering, but rather than dwelling on it, he picks up the story of composer-hero Josh (Mitch Silpa) two years after the death of Josh's lover, when he's finally able to find some joy in creating music again.

At a party for his close-knit "support system"--four friends who've helped him through his bereavement--Josh reveals he's even made a tentative romantic foray during a recent trip to London.

Naturally, what Josh dismisses as a brief encounter proves anything but when his smitten paramour, Marek (Scott Atkinson), shows up without warning.

Marek is a hopelessly idealized figure--relentlessly sensitive, insightful and unselfish--but there's an endearing tenderness in the performances as gun-shy Josh flounders through his fear of another commitment.

Harder to overlook is the tangle of subplots parading too many slice-of-life details without weight--a marriage foundering because the wife (Elizabeth Dement) dotes on Josh and neglects her spouse (Todd R. Hansen), an opening-night fiasco involving a choreographer (Hope Levy) collaborating with Josh, and Josh's one-time lover, Gary (John Bisom), angling to rekindle the flame.

The overly polite comedy lacks real bite--even the allegedly catty Gary proves a softy--but the centered, skillful performers (especially the hilarious Levy) are engaging compensation.

* "Recalled to Life," St. Genesius Theatre, 1049 N. Havenhurst, West Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.; Oct. 29, Nov. 12, 2 p.m. Runs indefinitely. $15. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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