April 16, 2004





What's the matter with Mitchell?


Children of divorce are all too likely to blame themselves for their parents' discord.


For restless 19-year-old Mitchell Fleming (Joey Adams), the protagonist of Kelly Masterson's "True Story," the blame game is more complicated--though not, it turns out, much more interesting--than that.


A compulsive storyteller who dropped out of college and began to live selflessly among the homeless in Manhattan before older brother Gary (Jordan Belfi) retrieved him, Mitchell is too much of a handful for either his brittle, jet-setting mom (Caryn Richman) or his simpleton dad (Richard Gleason).


In short, neither parent wants him, let alone understands his roiling artist's soul. Could that be why Mitchell purports to have visions of angels, in his own colorful variation on the common adoption fantasy of unappreciated young geniuses?


Amazingly, it takes the greater part of Masterson's play for mental health professionals to reach this conclusion. Maybe the stigmata are what throw them off. Indeed, a sympathetic, sweet-faced psych intern (Stephanie Denise Griffin) takes Mitchell's messianic tall tales more seriously than her starchy superior, Dr. Chivi (Andrew Prine)--who, for all the stale admonishments and tape-dictating exposition he's saddled with, should be named Dr. Cliche.


Director Ami Elizabeth Woodard directs with admirable economy, moving actors seamlessly between playing areas and timeframes under Douglas Gabrielle's stark lighting. But the cast's playing is TV-movie pseudo-sensitive and, in the lead, Adams is all wild-eyed punk arrogance and trembling-lip self-pity. The docs might add acute narcissism to the diagnosis.

--Rob Kendt


"True Story," A Theatre Conspiracy at the Coronet Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Apr. 25. $30. (310) 657-7377. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.