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Theater review: ‘Cold Lang Syne’ at the Complex

December 2, 2010 |  5:15 pm

Cold Lang Syne 1 What better way for four snowbound couples harboring dark secrets to celebrate a New Year’s Eve reunion than with a murder or two? Suffice it to say that comfort and joy are not among the yuletide festivities in “Cold Lang Syne,” Gregory Blair’s new play at the Complex. 

A quartet of frat house alumni and their significant others find themselves trapped in an isolated rented house when one of them meets with foul play—is there an intruder lurking out of sight? Or could the killer be one of them? And who will be the next victim?

This trendy but overreaching effort updates the familiar whodunit formula with topical elements such as gay marriage, the faltering economy, male bonding, sadistic bullying and vocabulary that would make Agatha Christie blush. Blair is so intent on connecting all the dots, however, that he leaves no room for subtext—every aspect of the characters’ histories and relationships are laid out in stilted dialogue (“I can see you’re as talented in design as you are in execution” is his way of saying “Nice job with the holiday decorations, dear”). Neither director Douglas Green nor his cast find enough nuance to overcome the general creakiness of stock characterizations more typical of dinner theater (fortunately, Mike Jespersen’s resort lodge set elevates the production values).

The even more problematic narrative construction stumbles over outright lapses in credibility. Even by the forgiving standards of the genre, would a couple spend a whole scene analyzing their marital issues when the body of their murdered friend has just been carried upstairs? On occasion, the characters take time out from their respective personal issues to focus on the crime, whose resolution is easily predictable. Then, to get some of the cast offstage once the  killer has been exposed, the best the script can manage is a suggestion that “we all try to get some sleep—as  crazy as that sounds.”

It does indeed.

–- Philip Brandes

“Cold Lang Syne,” Ruby Theatre at the Complex,  6472 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and  Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays and Dec. 31. Ends Jan. 2. $20 ($25 Dec. 31). (323) 960-4412 or Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

Photo (clockwise from left): Mikhail Blokh, Les Brandt, Douglas Myers, Holly Montgomery-Webb, Michael Harris, Dwight Turner, Sandra Purpuro, Bobbi Berkmen. Credit: Chris Trela/ArtsPR.