December 26, 2003





An engaging if erratic 'Cruise'


It's not hard to see why the loopy, low-rent shenanigans of Long Beach's Found Theatre are popular with an indulgent local audience. This troupe of theatrical misfits is resourceful in stagecraft and shameless in performance; they've never heard a bad joke they didn't love, and they've certainly never heard of the fourth wall. There are refreshments and audience participation, slapstick stunts and goofy slides.


In short, with a Found Theatre production you get something a little bit more--and quite a bit less, actually--than a play.


In "A Dysfunctional Family Cruise," the latest installment in a series that has included two Christmas shows and a trailer-park musical, writers Virginia DeMoss and Cynthia Galles star as zaftig Brenda Bleeker and her beanpole Aunt Jolene, respectively.


Obligatory exposition is dispatched early on--something about a disastrous family reunion at Area 51 and a deadbeat daughter--but the main action takes place on a "floating holiday" cruise, where the rickety cabins aren't much bigger than bathroom stalls and all on-board entertainment is apparently provided by the ship's guests.


There's no story, really, just a gallery of caricatures playing out a series of aimless sketches between slide-accented blackouts. Some scenes are inspired, like a synchronized swim routine performed on rolling chairs under a scrim or a platform that tips in convincingly capsized fashion.


Elsewhere production values are unabashedly impoverished: At one point audience members are invited to make wedding flowers from toilet tissue.


Ultimately this faltering "Cruise" relies too liberally on such seat-of-the-pants charm. There's no question that the straight-faced DeMoss and the dryly witty Galles make excellent party hosts. With a little more artistic rigor, though, they might expand their audience beyond the initiated.

Rob Kendt


"A Dysfunctional Family Cruise," the Found Theatre, 251 E. 7th St., Long Beach. Fridays-Saturdays, 8:30 p.m. Dark now; reopens Jan. 9-31. $10. (562) 433-3363. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.