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Review: 'Apple' at Theatre 40

April 30, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Canadian playwright Vern Thiessen takes a stroll on the sentimental side in “Apple,” a West Coast premiere at Theatre 40. And although the going sometimes gets sticky, the end destination affords a panoramic view of human relationships.

Albie Selznick plays Andy, a passive individual who is dominated by his high-powered Realtor wife, Evelyn (Ellyn Stern). When Andy is laid off from his job, his feelings of inadequacy make him vulnerable to the seductive wiles of sinuous Samantha (Carmit Levité). But Evelyn’s terminal cancer diagnosis proves transformative for the estranged couple. Andy’s sense of love and loyalty are rekindled, while Evelyn’s harsh dissatisfaction ebbs into mellow acceptance.

Certain visual clues indicate Thiessen’s allegorical intent. Note the shiny red apple hanging from the upstage tree of Jeff. G. Rack’s scenic design. If that’s not enough of a clue, Christine Cover Ferro’s costume design places Samantha in a dress with a long train that is positively serpentine. (Get it?)

Rather than soft-selling Thiessen’s klunky themes, director Rachel Goldberg attacks them with a thudding conscientiousness that smacks of idiot-proofing. But if her staging is not subtle, it is effectively sincere. Selznick’s Andy progresses from passivity to passion to loving dutifulness, and Stern braces her potentially mawkish character with raw emotion. But it’s the sinuous Levité who proves a real scene-stealer, slinking around the stage like a biblical temptress from a miracle play. Benjamin Goldman contributes artful animation projections to this flawed but poignant parable.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Apple,”Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. In repertory. See www.theatre40.org for schedule. Ends May 24. $20-$22. (310) 364-0535. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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