February 13, 2004





Surviving, barely, Hollywood jungle


Actress Blair Tefkin can do ditzy with her hands tied behind her back. This willowy, stark brunette has the unblinking stare of the practiced airhead and that uniquely showbiz voice type: a little-girl timbre burnished by cigarettes and decades of crushing rejection.


Tefkin doesn't have her hands behind her back in "In the Land of the Giants," her autobiographical one-woman pop/rock cabaret; she has them out front, thumping a bass guitar, as she relates fractured, poignant, often hilarious tales of minor celebrity, despair, and humiliation--in other words, the average actor's life.


From her years as a "tiny prodigy" and child of divorce, through ludicrous acting classes, unrewarding relationships and unsought career advice from all comers, Tefkin's throughline is her struggle to develop a sturdy sense of self in a town where "a woman is a perishable commodity," as a longtime therapist tells her.


Indeed, as she tells it, Tefkin has been surrounded by fantastically self-involved people--parents, psychiatrists, agents, boyfriends.


It's something of a miracle, then, that she retains such a deceptively breezy, self-deprecating sense of humor about a business that's left her, as she puts it in the show's ironically affirmative closer, "Lonely, uninsured and disappointed."


As a singer/songwriter, she's no Aimee Mann, but her tunes are witty and often pretty, and they're backed with loving subtlety by guitarist Bernard Yin and drummer Michael Kramer. Director Andy Fickman gives the proceedings smooth but not overly slick momentum.


The show's last third dips slightly into tepid bathos. The emphasis isn't needed, for Tefkin's blank stare finally conveys not so much ditziness as a look of hard-won wisdom. She's faced some cruel music and she's still dancing.

--Rob Kendt


"In the Land of the Giants," Bossyboots Productions at the 2nd Stage Theatre, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Mar. 13. $15. (323) 960-7744. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.