Susan Rubin's "Mysteries in a Silver Box," an Indecent Exposure Theatre Company production at Los Angeles Theatre Center's Theatre 4, tries hard to subvert the English drawing-room mystery genre with a comic flair, but it's mostly a flaccid piece that fails to engage or excite.
Two daughters, the Prozac-popping artist Lucy (Ana Gabriel) and the responsible, overachieving older sister Robin (Shareen Mitchell), preparing brunch for their mother's 75th birthday party in Greenwich Village, discover their mother has run off in search of her dead husband and a silver box. Both helped and hindered by the party guests--cousin Angie (Maureen McVerry), Robin's old college friend Luisah (Wandachristine) and Luisah's secretive Russian friend Galia (Denise Poirier), Lucy and Robin attempt to discover the meaning behind their mother's disappearance, her whereabouts and the significance of the long-lost silver box.
From the women entering totally dry from the supposedly pouring rain, to the artificiality of some of the performances, nothing rings true. Director Laural Meade allows the pacing to drag, which is deadly when the suspense hinges on the disappearance of a woman who isn't effectively evoked in the script and whom the audience never sees. The cast is neither in the realm of realism nor pushed over the edge into farce, instead inhabiting an uneasy middle ground.
Rubin hasn't set up this piece to give us reason to care for the missing woman, and Meade fails to make us care about the anxious daughters.
* "Mysteries in a Silver Box," Indecent Exposure Theatre Company, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre 4, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends June 20. $12. (213) 485-1681. Running time: 2 hours, 14 minutes.