One Man's Eclectic View in 'Road Stories'

In his one-man cabaret turn at Masquer's Cafe and Dinner Theatre, Donald Rubinstein is an eccentric, even bizarre, performer. In "Music, Road Stories and Poems," Rubinstein shifts frantically from foot to foot, like a bundled-up kid ignoring nature's call to complete a snowman.

It's when Rubinstein is seated behind the piano playing his beautiful tunes that he approaches a kind of serenity, especially in such lyrical numbers as "Sweet Angelyne" and "Lily's Lullaby."

The exception to this gritty program, "Lily's Lullaby," a paean to a friend's daughter, could be transferred straight to "Sesame Street" without missing a beat. Otherwise, Rubinstein's eclectic evening is centered firmly in an urban rhythm. Rubinstein's parodic monologues can be darkly funny, although his spoken works are sometimes overly simplistic, even unwieldy.

But that's all part of the ambience. Devoid of transitory trendiness, the retro-hip Rubinstein could have time-traveled straight from the Beat era. And Rubinstein himself, who has managed to maintain an essential sweetness despite his checkered decades on "the scene," proves that disaffection needn't be so mindless after all.

* "Donald Rubinstein: Music, Road Stories and Poems," Masquer's Cafe and Dinner Theatre, 8334 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles. Tonight and Jan. 3, 10 p.m. (seating at 9:30 p.m.). Thursdays in January at 10 p.m. (seating at 9:30 p.m.). Ends Jan. 30. $12 cover charge and one-drink minimum. (213) 653-4848. Running time: 1 hour.

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