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Theater review: 'The Water's Edge' at the Lankershim Arts Center

January 26, 2012 | 10:01 am

The Water's Edge

"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," says one of the angrily bewildered characters in "The Water's Edge" at the Road Theatre. Talk about understatement. Playwright Theresa Rebeck's 2006 drama drop-kicks the House of Atreus into Showtime territory, with ungainly yet arresting results.

Seventeen years ago, Richard (an assured Albie Selznick) left Massachusetts following a tragedy that Rebeck withholds for much of Act 1.  Now a moneyed jet-setter, Richard returns to the lakeside home his father bequeathed him -- superbly realized by designer Desma Murphy with equal parts Rousseau and Wyeth --  younger girlfriend Lucy (fine-tuned Lauren Birriel) in tow, to reclaim both estate and estranged clan.

Erica (vivid Paris Perrault), his daughter, reacts with hostility tempered by Daddy's Favorite conflicts. Nate (Patrick Rieger, a find), his son, is more sanguine, though his halting speech and lack of ambition suggest deeper fissures. Critically, there is Helen (the valiant Nicole Farmer), Richard's wife, whose brittle civility masks an aquifer of bereaved fury.

Although stashing Aeschylus within postmodern family dramaturgy forces Rebeck to clash form and content to the near-breaking point, her facility with double-edged dialogue remains acute. Sam Anderson stylishly directs an expert design team, Kathi O'Donohue's lighting is particularly adroit, and an intense cast.

Selznick does everything possible to make Agamemnon, er, Richard plausible. If Farmer is still working out Helen's daunting final monologue, just try to look away. Perrault and Birriel deftly play interior lives against contrasting surfaces, and Rieger goes from endearing to chilling in a breakout performance. "The Water's Edge" is hardly perfect, but that won't keep audiences from getting caught up in this absorbing L.A. premiere.

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More theater reviews from the Los Angeles Times

-- David C. Nichols

"The Water’s Edge," Road Theatre, Historic Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North  Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 10. $25. (866) 811-4111 or www.roadtheatre.org. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Photo: Nicole Farmer, left, and Albie Selznick. Credit: Chris Goss.

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