Los Angeles Times

May 20, 2005

 

THEATER BEAT

 

'Lydia': sex, lies and ambivalence

 

As Elvis Costello once mind-bogglingly put it, "When I said that I was lying, I might have been lying." The sexually entangled characters in Phinneas Kiyomura's sere, tender new play "Lydia in Bed" do a lot of this special kind of lyingŃsincere but equivocating, half-confessing but always holding some deeper, darker confession at bay.

 

At its best, Kiyomura's play, rendered by a strong, fearless cast under director Sam Roberts, makes his characters' confusion palpable, conjuring a disturbingly recognizable ambivalence in the fractured tale of a young couple, Lydia (Millie Chow) and Bob (Kiyomura), whose budding collegiate dalliance is threatened by Bob's laconic, womanizing father (an astonishingly, hilariously grim Phil Ward), by Dad's edgy, drug-dealing companion (Lauren Letherer) and by Bob's plaintive ex (Alina Phelan).

 

Roberts' staging is stark and naked, both literally and emotionally, with an installation-like set of paintings on glass by TJ Moore and pulsating alt-rock score/sound design by Andy Mitton.

 

But once Kiyomura situates us in this house of mirrors, he gives us the runaround. In a self-consciously cut-up structure, he interrupts and replays scenes in out-of-order bits. Even what seem like straightforward monologues contain spring-loaded surprises.

 

Ultimately, the result is more formalistic than revealing. Kiyomura starts out wearing a compellingly conflicted heart on his sleeve and ends by pulling needless tricks from it.

 

Rob Kendt

 

"Lydia in Bed," Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays. Ends June 4. $15 to $20. (323) 856-8611 or www.theatreofnote.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.