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Entertainment & Arts

Review: Country music creates common ground in ‘Salvage’ at the Lounge Theatre

Christopher Fordinal, left, and David Atkinson in the Lounge Theatre’s “Salvage.”
Christopher Fordinal, left, and David Atkinson in the Lounge Theatre’s “Salvage.”
(Ed Krieger)

If you’re a fan of country music — the alcohol-fueled kind that drips with 100-proof regret — then you’ll probably take a liking to “Salvage,” Tim Alderson’s “play with music” premiering at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood.

With music and lyrics by Alderson, Mark Heard, Pat Terry and Randy VanWarmer, this new work has plenty to enjoy, including some down-home country wit that truly snaps (book by Alderson). Director Damian D. Lewis and music director Stephan Terry get the most of their strong cast in a well-paced and tuneful production.

The action is set in a failing, out-of-the-way bar (scenic designer Joel Daavid) where owner Johnson (Leonard Earl Howze) struggles to hold on. The bar’s sole regular appears to be Preacher (David Atkinson), a musician with a song list of bad memories and a whiskey-hued voice that resonates with his daily bottle of hooch. Or two.

The bar’s near-funereal atmosphere lights up with the arrival of ebullient young singer-songwriter Harley (Christopher Fordinal), who is visiting the site because his country music idol purportedly killed himself there.

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Of course, Harley and Preacher are soon strumming guitars and swapping songs while engaging in pointed chit-chat reflecting their diametrically opposite views of life. The bright-eyed, optimistic Harley tries to buck up the indefatigably bitter Preacher. Preacher in turn attempts to puncture Harley’s buoyant idealism, including the young man’s misplaced notion that he must abandon his musical dreams to support his pregnant wife, Destiny (Nina Herzog).

As the afternoon progresses, past histories are revealed, along with a few present-day surprises. You get the feeling that Alderson may have listened to one too many country music songs while writing “Salvage”; be prepared for a deluge of sentimentality by play’s end. Still, a few judicious edits — and a dash more bitters in the syrup — could salvage this promising play from overstepping into bathos.

'Salvage'
Where: Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Jan. 19 (no performances Dec. 27-29.)

Ticket: $35

Info: (323) 960-7712, onstage411.com/salvage

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

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