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Theater review: 'Love Sick' at the Elephant Theatre

September 29, 2011 |  4:10 pm

A sexy stranger (Dominic Rains) tempts the gun-toting Emily (Alexandra Hoover) deeper into crime in "Love Sick"
At the opening of Kristina Poe’s “Love Sick” at the Elephant Theatre Company, somebody behind me murmured, “I heard she did marketing for a theater and then all of a sudden wrote a play.” The combined rawness and proficiency of Poe’s drama, her first, would suggest such a creation myth even if one didn't already exist. (In fact she was in stage management, according to the program.)

“Love Sick” may be a handful of promising scenes commandeered by a gimmicky plot. But the scenes are so promising, so playful, so crackling with theatricality, insight, personality and wit, that not even the tacked-on ending can cramp their style.

Heartbroken Emily (Alexandra Hoover), abandoned by her husband, discovers that shooting a stranger in a public bathroom eases her grief. She goes on to shoot a sleazy self-help guru who runs a support group for the brokenhearted, then her husband's girlfriend. She hooks up with a seductive, possibly supernatural man she meets in a bar (Dominic Rains). Finally, she is shown leading the support group, having redirected its focus from “sharing” and “trust exercises” to target practice.

The play probably doesn't mean to propose serial murder as an antidote to heartbreak, although the idea that it might is what gives Emily’s interactions their dark humor. Poe has a fondness for oddly calibrated priorities — Emily’s mother (the magnificent Melanie Jones) is completely unmoved by her murder confession but furious to see her smoking — and goofy group singalongs such as the support group's therapeutic performance of "I Will Survive."

Hoover, whose aristocratic beauty makes her zany comic gifts continuously surprising, lends coherence to an evening that might otherwise, even under David Fofi's high-spirited direction, feel a little miscellaneous -- especially as many roles are played by different actors on alternating nights. I saw Christopher Game as the ill-fated self-help guru, Jerry Fortuna; his charming performance made me wish the support-group set piece — fun but already long and diffuse — could last forever. The gritty, multipurpose set by Elephant Stageworks stylishly grounds the production's flair.

-- Margaret Gray

"Love Sick," the Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Ends Oct. 29. $20. (877) 369-9112 or Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: A sexy stranger (Dominic Rains) tempts the gun-toting Emily (Alexandra Hoover) deeper into crime in "Love Sick." Credit: Salvator Xuereb.