May 6, 2005
Privacy rites in the Big Apple
Only connect? It's never that simple, as the toxically interconnected New Yorkers of James Christy Jr.'s "Never Tell" learn. At its best, in director Lindsay Allbaugh's assured production, Christy's roundelay of secrets, lies and videotape captures both the visceral horror of violated privacy and the exhilaration of blowing down well-fortified personal boundaries.
The play's demolition genius is the loquacious, eerily magnetic slacker Hoover, in a born-to-play-him performance by Tito Ortiz. Stomping smilingly through the lives of a quartet of tenuously bonded friends—computer nerd Manny (Christopher Game), basket-case venture capitalist Liz (Gia McGinley), taciturn Chelsea gallery manager Will (Robert Foster) and his high-strung banker wife, Anne (Marisa O'Brien)—the glibly frank Hoover is the most lively and original character.
After placing this blissful spoiler in the path of his characters' conflicting interests and hinting at the barely concealed lies on which they've built their lives, Christy's second act unravels in ways that are both predictable and improbable. Will's art dealings, and the dark, self-serving muse behind them, are particularly hard to swallow and seem to belong in a different play.
But even when his dramaturgy grows dubious, Christy's distinctive voice—both sharp and searching—remains clear, and the actors, particularly the pent-up Game, dig in with relish. A series of well-wrought monologues about the leads' youthful sexual initiations get intent readings, with Bosco Flanagan's hand-held lights giving them a campfire-confessional feeling. And Allbaugh handles the play's abundant scene changes across Joel Daavid's versatile, gallery-worthy set with telling bursts of alt-rock—yet another well-placed element in this promising if imperfect effort.
"Never Tell," Elephant Theatre Company, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays to Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 4. $15. (323) 960-4429. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.