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Theater review: '1951-2006' at Los Angeles Theatre Center

May 21, 2010 |  6:00 am
400.1951-2006 photo 3 Politics and storytelling have always been inseparable for activist-writer Donald Freed, and his new play "1951-2006" remains true to form. Directed by the author under the auspices of LATC's resident Latino Theatre Company, the show spans five decades of American history as reflected in the romance between neighbors in a tawdry Manhattan brownstone.

Sparks of wit fly fast and furious when embittered war hero and self-styled Jewish "sit-up comedian" (he uses a wheelchair) David (Michael Matthys) meets Meg (Debra DeLiso), a free-spirited Irish Catholic teacher. In alternating snapshot scenes with documentary audio clips, their deepening relationship plays out against a backdrop of major social turning points and leftist causes, from the McCarthy witch hunts to the Iraq War.

The nicely paced love story and history lesson dovetail in Freed's sharp dialogue, though his staging overindulges cleverness. As the pair trade quotes from Shakespeare, Beckett and pop culture, they often seem to be performing for each other rather than conversing. There's more poignant, natural chemistry in Meg's occasional scenes with her other lover (Christopher Fairbanks, in one of several well-differentiated roles).

The production amusingly evokes the look and feel of each passing era, particularly in the ghastly attire of the 1970s. And if you've been struggling to erase the mental imprint of Cat Stevens' "Where Do the Children Play," you'll probably have to start over.

– Philip Brandes 

"1951-2006," Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 13. $35, $10 on Thursdays. (213) 489-0994, Ext. 107. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photo:  Debra DeLiso and Christopher Fairbanks. Photo credit: Brooks Wachtel