November 19, 2004




Countercultural 'Freedomland'


Amy Freed's "Freedomland," a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is only 7 years old, but already it's getting the kind of actor-showcase production typically reserved for routine desecrations of the works of Shepard or Shanley.


Based on this misbegotten rendition, one might wonder at the tastes of the Pulitzer committee. Even in its sleek 1997 production at South Coast Repertory, Freed's freewheeling family dramedy played like a post-hippie "Heartbreak House" -- an often witty, occasionally insightful look at millennial malaise among the overeducated that was as offhandedly engaging as it was unmemorably slight.


When Noah (Bill Dearth), who's a bit of a cross between Ken Kesey and Papa Hemingway, welcomes his three adult children back home for a weekend of bickering, bonding and assorted sortings-out, the gathering builds to a contrived confrontation between the old man and son Seth (Scott Brady), who represents the misdirected frustration of a generation raised in countercultural confusion.


Some of Freed's intergenerational comedy of missed connections comes through. But under David Barry's direction, no one onstage seems to quite know what they're saying, or exhibits any sense of what makes these smart, quirky people tick, let alone tick each other off.

--Rob Kendt


"Freedomland," 3KO Broadway Theatre Company at Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends Dec. 18. (No performances Thanksgiving weekend.) $15. (818) 685-9939. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.