City Garage in Too Deep in 'Deathwatch'

The company at City Garage devotes itself to producing neglected plays, often European classics with an expressionistic bent. Unconcerned with current trends or commercial appeal, City Garage is blessedly devoid of the showcase mentality that permeates so many of Los Angeles' smaller theaters.

It's unfortunate to have to fault such a determinedly pure artistic pursuit, particularly when this company attempts so much. However, City Garage badly overreaches itself in its latest effort, Jean Genet's "Deathwatch."

In a typically twisted Genet dynamic, three prison cellmates parry for power in a struggle charged with covert sexuality. Green Eyes (John Blevins) will be executed shortly. Lefranc (Andrew Cooper Wasser) will be released in a few days. The manipulatively girlish Maurice (Michael Yurchak), who idolizes Green Eyes, is the object of Lefranc's secret longing.

Charles Duncombe's production design is stark and effectively harsh. However, the youthful actors, under Frederique Michel's direction, seldom summon up the level of dread or poetic intensity requisite in any Genet work, despite their straining earnestness.

* "Deathwatch," City Garage, 1340 1/2 (alley) 4th St., Santa Monica. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 5:30 p.m. Ends Nov. 12. $15. (310) 319-9939. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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