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Review: '<3' at Studio Stage

April 23, 2009 |  4:00 pm

Less than three True or false: *

1) It’s OK to propose to your girlfriend via instant messaging.

2) Paying taxes is tithing to the Church of War.

3) <3 symbolizes something other than “less than three.”

These dilemmas of the millennial generation are the subject of “<3,” a quirky little experiment in live multimedia by the Brimmer Street Theatre Company. Somewhere in L.A., a group of friends hang around a wedding reception from which the happy couple are conspicuously absent. James (Drew DiFonzio Marks) moons over the bride, his half sister, by dating a woman who could be her twin (Emilia Richeson). Mel (Amy K. Harmon) torches for the groom, while her boyfriend of six years, Sam (Ian Madeira), keeps popping the question. And Emily (Jillian Szafranksi) is somehow pregnant by her girlfriend.


Director Jenny Byrd and her production team turn the black box space at Studio Stage into a series of projection surfaces on which we see flashbacks, IM exchanges and a very bad wedding video being filmed.  There are dance and dream sequences, and the making of paper dolls. It’s all pretty freewheeling, and the acting ranges from solid (Harmon and Madeira) to sketch comedy (Marks). 


An incisive look at the millennial generation? Not really. A likable, knockabout portrait of arrested development in search of emotional rescue? Sure.


* Answers may vary depending on age of respondent. <3 is also a typographical abbreviation for the human heart, which may find itself confused by the new social norms of our iPod planet.


--Charlotte Stoudt


“<3,”Studio Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Ends May 9. $12. Running time: 2 hours.


Caption: Amy K Harmon and Daniel Gordon in "<3."   Credit: Meredith Donahue