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Review: 'Lions' at Pacific Resident Theatre

February 5, 2009 |  2:40 pm

Spook_beth_2“Lions,” the new play by Vince Melocchi at Pacific Resident Theatre, is a drama that speaks directly to our country’s current state of affairs, which is to say it’s a play about unemployment, hardship and economic collapse.

If that sounds like a depressing thematic lineup, the play itself is far from being a downer. “Lions” takes an unsentimental look at a ravaged cross-section of present-day Detroit and tells a story of compassion in a cold climate. Melocchi’s play is a smart, humanistic though not terribly profound observation of working-class survivalism.

Spook (Matt McKenzie) is an unemployed auto-parts worker who spends his time at a local club drinking beer and watching his beloved Detroit Lions on television. Good-natured and essentially kindhearted, he holds court with his fellow football fans, including a reverend (Kim Estes), an undertaker (Haskell V. Anderson III) and a downtrodden grocery store clerk (Alan Keith Caldwell).

The play, which unfolds during the NFL’s 2007 draft season, charts Spook’s downward economic trajectory with a bracing matter-of-factness. His wife (Valerie Dillman), a dollar-store employee, begs him to find work, but he keeps sabotaging his meetings with an exasperated jobs counselor (Gloria Charles).

“Lions,” directed by Guillermo Cienfuegos, seldom rises above detached quotidian observations, preferring to illuminate surfaces instead of plumbing depths. But the production delivers a handful of excellent performances (especially McKenzie’s) and brings to life characters whose lack of bitterness and self-pity make them worthy of our empathy.

-- David Ng

“Lions,” Pacific Resident Theatre, 705½ Venice Blvd., Venice. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 29. $20 to $25. (310) 822-8392. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Caption: Matt McKenzie and Valerie Dillman in "Lions" at Pacific Resident Theatre. Credit: Pacific Resident Theatre

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