October 10, 2003





'Other Shore' a barren experience


If the actor's nightmare is to be stranded onstage without rehearsal, the audience's nightmare is to watch actors play theater games.


Regrettably, the Sons of Beckett's West Coast premiere of "The Other Shore," part of EdgeFest 2003, resembles nothing so much as an experimental theater class in which very green actors


rehearse/emote/create a purportedly avant-garde show. To be fair, they are following a text--a slight, prosaic one by Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian that was never performed in his native China but has been embraced in Europe, where the author now lives. The Europeans may be flattered by imitation, since his work shows the clear influence of Western modernism, from Brecht to Peter Handke, in its bare structure, archetypal content and skepticism of socially ratified meaning.


The play is essentially a series of individuation psychodramas: The group discovers the communion of language, then turns it against one another; the group, under the sway of a demagogue, gangs up on an honest man; a young man finds himself spurned by mother, father, girl and society.


Director Jeffrey Wienckowski includes some African dance and live percussion played by ensemble member Coati Mundi (who should stick to music). Jay P. Africa's set is lovely if sparse, and Rebecca Blount's lighting is effective.


Of the actors, only the impassioned Brian Johnson comes off well, particularly in a wordless, well-orchestrated sequence that has him manipulating "mannequins" into a group dance. It's the one time these players are on top of their game.

Rob Kendt


"The Other Shore," presented by the Sons of Beckett Theatre Company at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., fourth floor. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Special EdgeFest matinees Saturdays, Oct. 11 and 18, noon. and 4 p.m. Ends Nov. 9. $15. (323) 465-3136. 1 hour, 25 minutes.