April 2, 2004





Canted with a tin ear for pitch


With feminism like this, who needs misogyny? The heroines of Colette Freedman's five playlets, under the misleadingly weighty title "Deconstructing the Torah," are all tinny caricatures of feisty womanhood, with their putative Jewishness garnering little more than an obligatory glance.


Or a gawk: We first glimpse Shoshanna (Jamie Mann), the most devout of the bunch, lighting her Shabbos candles clad in simple black bra and panties. Either she belongs to the Victoria's Secret wing of the Reform movement--or director Alexander Yannis Stephano just thought we might enjoy a little eye candy.


Freedman does have some decent sketch ideas here: a schlubby spermatozoa (Jim Blanchette) wooing a mistrustful egg (Trena Jean Custer); the "Heathers"-esque revenge fantasy of a gawky nerd (Elizabeth Kouri) against a ditzy shiksa troika; even the ridiculously ideal Jewish man, Schlomi Finkelstein (Jack Sundmacher), who springs to life as an embodiment of Shoshanna's mother's highest hopes.


But their comic potential is too often squandered in the callow obviousness of Freedman's writing, especially in a series of interstitial "debates" in verse between a corporate suit (Daniel Gibbons) and a ranting activist (Megan Williamson) whose ire is directed at--are you ready for this, America?--Starbuck's, Wal-Mart, SUVs, and, like, the government.


The evening's climactic piece, "Diamonds Aren't Forever," is a screechingly unfunny romantic comedy set in a funeral home, but it does have a pricelessly irreverent opening involving an alternative use for a coffin. That the evening's best, most inspired moment is wordless is, unfortunately, very telling.

--Rob Kendt


"Deconstructing the Torah," Circus Theatricals at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Ends Apr. 20. $15. (310) 477-2055. Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.