Monday, November 3, 2008

Beachwood Drive


By Steven Leigh Morris. Dir. Alan Mandell. Abingdon Theatre. (CLOSED)

Steven Leigh Morris' drama, weaving the travails of a Ukrainian sex worker in Los Angeles with the stories of other Angelenos, got mixed reviews. All critics praised lead actress Lena Starostina, but most had problems with Morris' script--either its structure or its speechifying, or both.

Back Stage B+
(Karl Levett) Dramatic traction really doesn't start until the introduction of the colorful Los Angeles police detective who opens the second act; from there on, however, the play is never less than compelling...At times it's a florid polemic...but some nourishing food for thought is provided. Yes, the play needs reshaping...There's a sobering authenticity here, much of it provided by the first-class cast directed by Alan Mandell.

NY Times B
(Rachel Saltz) There's much to admire in the first act of Steven Leigh Morris's intelligent but uneven new play, Beachwood Drive...Set in Los Angeles, [the play] reflects the ethnic hodgepodge of modern American cities...At its best, Mr. Morris's play mines the strange dynamics of unexpected pairings: What would these people talk about?...Mr. Morris...he gets tripped up in the second act...[spelling] out what was compellingly mysterious in the first act, hitting his themes too hard and making his play seem more literary contrivance than living, breathing drama.

Theater Mania C
(Andy Propst) Morris -- who is also a theater editor and critic -- hasn't created a bad little mystery...Unfortunately, though, Morris burdens the play unbearably with other big issues, most notably attempting to draw parallels between Nadya's servitude and slavery and race relations...Such contrivances seem all the more apparent in director Alan Mandell's staging. Characters don't so much talk to one another as at each other, which only make certain portions the script sound like polemics.

Variety C-
(Marilyn Stasio) Focusing on a Ukrainian woman working for a Los Angeles prostitution ring, the drama makes clumsy dramaturgical efforts to present her personal story within the broader context of a political documentary. Despite a presentable production by helmer Alan Mandell, the show ends up neither fish nor fowl...While Morris has every right to make a bigger political issue of Nadya's story, his verbose speeches -- many delivered in direct address to the audience -- register as lectures.

Back Stage B+ 11; NY Times B 10; Theater Mania C 7; Variety C- 6; TOTAL: 34 / 4 = 8.5 (C+/B-)

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