LOS ANGELES TIMES

 

November 28, 2003

 

THEATER BEAT

 

 

Comedy blends bite and insight

 

Can a feminist have a sense of humor?

 

The question isn't so much whether a woman can tell or take a joke--though some in Hollywood, remarkably, still find this point arguable--but whether feminism can be funny in the tradition of provocative social criticism from Twain to Pryor.

 

Well, duh--how about Lily Tomlin, Nora Dunn and Tina Fey, for starters?

 

Another contender for that roll call is Christine Dunford, whose new solo show, "Out Loud," combines the kicky shorthand of sketch comedy with the incisive observational details of a first-rate multicharacter solo show a la Danny Hoch or Eric Bogosian. Indeed, Dunford--a tall, perilously thin blond with a pliable face and a versatile voice--comes off a bit like a brilliant sketch comic who has bothered to follow her characters past the punch line and blackout.

 

This means that Damiana, a Eurotrash supermodel preeningly promoting a book on a late-night talk show, gets to venture beyond beauty-as-empowerment sound bites into hilariously ugly territory. Genna, a giddy young ballet student, eventually stops giggling to outline her plan to cash in as a stripper. And a meek professional, Eileen, can slowly unspool a heartbreaking case against the everyday deaths of urban life.

 

The evening's most fully realized portrait is of Maybeth, a reality-TV producer who runs her Benedict Canyon home office with a free-associating sense of entitlement and self-absorption that's somehow as moving as it is cattily cutting.

 

Director Michelle Danner might have reined in some of Dunford's more hyperventilating moments, particularly as Genna, but in all it's a finely honed evening, with a clean, sleek set by Chris Stone and marvelously suggestive lighting by Matthew Pomerantz.

 

In a superfluous curtain raiser, actor David Rasche tosses off a handful of ironically loungey novelty tunes. Maybe the intention was to make Dunford's material look that much better by comparison, but her work needs no such favors, let alone any introduction.

Rob Kendt

 

"Out Loud," Edgemar Center for the Arts, 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. Fridays, 9 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 p.m. No performances Dec. 19-Jan. 3. Ends Jan. 17. $20. (310) 392-7327. Running time: 2 hours.