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Theater review: 'Bleeding Through' by About Productions

November 5, 2009 |  3:30 pm

Cinematic Molly.300

"Bleeding Through" at Shakespeare Festival/LA is Theresa Chavez and Rose Portillo's noir-tinged interactive theater piece exhuming the secrets within historic Angelino Heights.
Based on Norman Klein's novella, this About Productions attraction operates on multiple levels.  After the Unreliable Narrator (David Fruechting) prepares us for more than one version of the truth, we sit around the speakeasy-flavored area within designer Akeime Mitterlehner's excellent multi-perspective set.
His story follows Molly (Lynn Milgrim), an elderly resident who may be involved with a long-ago homicide. As the Narrator queries Molly and neighbor Ezra (Ed Ramolete), the reminiscences crisscross with Molly's younger self (Elizabeth Rainey).
A morally dubious attorney (James Terry), the boss' dissolute son (Brian Joseph) and Molly's deceptively innocuous second husband (Pete Pano) provide complications that echo various cinematic classics, apt considering that Angelino Heights served as location for many movie murders in Hollywood.

Chavez and Portillo impressively explore the space to suggest contextual layers, assisted by François-Pierre Couture's ambient lighting, Pamela Shaw's period costumes and the live accompaniment by musicians Scott Collins and Vinny Goila. The cast is proficient and, at times -- Molly's first encounter with each of the men, a tense Act 2 poker game -- they reveal the promise in the premise.

However, Chavez and Portillo's stylish stagecraft outstrips their text. Klein's narrative is deliberately ambiguous, short on dramatic bite, which creates onstage action more elegiac than electric. There is also too little use of Claudio Rocha's fine black-and-white videos with Kikey Castillo as yet another Molly. Although "Bleeding Through" is intelligent, admirable and certainly of local interest, it's curiously bloodless.

– David C. Nichols

"Bleeding Through," Shakespeare Festival/LA, 1238 W. 1st St., L.A. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 22. $20 and $25. or (800) 595-4849. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Kikey Castillo. Photo credit: Theresa Chavez.