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Meandering Plot in ‘Undercurrents’

“Undercurrents” at Theatre 40 is, on the surface at least, a polished production, with a handsome set by Thomas Buderwitz and a pleasing, professional cast doing its level best to make some sense out of Richard Polak’s garbled plot.

Polak starts off with a provocative premise: Sandy Michaels (Sarah MacDonnell), who has been in a mental institution ever since killing her parents 19 years ago, is released into the outside world. However, we know we’re in trouble when Sandy’s psychiatrist, Dr. Hammer (Jay Bell, filling in for Robert Nadder), intones, “The crime of killing your parents 19 years ago is behind you.” Unfortunately, for the audience, the crime of clumsy exposition and undisciplined story structure is just beginning.

No halfway houses for Sandy, who looks more like she spent the last two decades at a health spa than Bellevue. It’s straight to Bridgehamptom, where she has rented a beach house with a passel of eccentrics who would feel right at home on the locked ward.

Polak never decides if his play is a black comedy, a soap opera or a mystery. What results is pure potboiler. Jules Aaron’s shallow direction doesn’t help matters much, leaving the actors stranded at high tide with no rescue in sight.

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* “Undercurrents,” Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Dec. 17. $14-$17. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.


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