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Theater review: 'God's Ear' at the Zephyr Theatre

January 18, 2012 |  1:03 pm

God's Ear
In “Rabbit Hole,” playwright David Lindsay-Abaire imagines the parallel universe of parental grief after a boy is killed in an accident. In “God’s Ear,” now at the Zephyr Theatre, author Jenny Schwartz takes a similar situation and explores it much more surreally.

Which is to say more realistically. Losses of this kind, after all, have an otherworldly aspect to them. Unfortunately, the externalization of this topsy-turvy internal reality is too cute to be acute.
      
Mel (Amanda Saunders), the bereaved mother, slips into a Lewis Carroll-esque wonderland of sorrow, in which language dips and darts like befuddled butterflies and a glum tooth fairy (Tara Karsian) and a gleamingly earnest G.I. Joe action figure (Jeremy Shranko) make appearances. Ted (Paul Caramagno), caught in his own whirlpool of mourning, falls into bed with a drunken mess (Andrea Grano) he meets at an airport lounge. Lainie, Mel and Ted’s 6-year-old daughter (played by adult Alana Dietze), who insists she wants to grow up to be Helen Keller, keeps asking unanswerable questions, such as “Who’s sadder? Me, you or dad?”

IGods ear 2f the whimsy grows strained (there’s a transvestite flight attendant, played by Shranko, who bosses around a weary, dead-eyed Ted), it’s probably because Schwartz hasn’t established a forward emotional path for her play. The action eddies rather than builds.  Even the marital conflict is allowed to spin indefinitely. There’s a good deal of psychological truth to this depiction, but the theatrical wit doesn’t always seem dramatically grounded.

An appealing cast, under the direction of Rory Kozoll, emphasizes the play’s capricious charm (further enhanced by scenic designer Melissa Ficociello's minimalist magic). Not that Saunders and Caramagno don’t fully inhabit the isolating anguish of their characters. But when Lainie’s footed pajamas, Lenora’s boozy-floozy monologues and the tooth fairy’s deadpan double-takes are the great points of interest, it’s a sign that the play’s deeper meanings have been lost in the eccentric shuffle. 

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-- Charles McNulty

twitter.com\charlesmcnulty

charles.mcnulty@latimes.com

 
“God’s Ear,” Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., L.A.  8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. $25 (877) 369-9112 or www.echotheatercompany.com Running time 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photos: Upper: (L to R) Amanda Saunders, Alana Dietze, Paul Caramagno. Lower: Andrea Grano. Credit: Megan J. Carroll 

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