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Review: 'Jumping the Median' at Santa Monica Playhouse

April 7, 2009 |  6:00 pm

2Love thy neighbors -20 Noteworthy promise leaps around "Jumping the Median" at the Santa Monica Playhouse's Other Space. Acclaimed slam poet Steve Connell's quartet of one-acts has its variables, but essential ability isn't among them.

Co-directed by Connell and Emily Weisberg, "Median" features resourceful designers and versatile performers.  The most incisive work is "Us and Them," a Pirandello-flavored study of relationships that ends the evening. One optimistic pair (Sarah Sido and Tyler Moore) is starting out; the other (Elizabeth Maxwell and In-Q) is at the end of its disillusioned road. Strongly acted, unfolding in intertwined perspectives from the same apartment, Connell's writing delivers edgy insight about modern coupling. Its main flaw is a too-limited scope -- both the narrative conceit and societal overview warrant expansion.

The clear crowd-pleaser is "Love Thy Neighbors," which drop-kicks the House of Laius into retro family sitcom.  More in-joke-ridden sketch than meaningful play, the piece is still wacky fun in its Christopher Durang-cribs-from-Woody Allen way. Sido and Kevin Larsen are fervently funny as the hostess and her enervated son. Among their raucous colleagues, Ida Darvish and Moore make effectively over-the-top Grecian counterparts, while Greg Crooks and Mike Wood have a ham's holiday as Khor and Hus.

Less convincing is the title playlet, a two-hander about a long-term park-bench courtship between Connell and Darvish that, despite their conviction, tells us nothing we haven't heard before. "All Fall Up" is inconclusive in its examination of an insomniac's (Crooks) dreams, though it might work better as an outright monologue.

At the reviewed performance, cast member Joe Sanfelippo was out as "Neighbors'" Laius and "Up's" Man, with Connell creditably subbing for him. Jessie Sherman and Brent Tonick complete the energetic roster for a ripe showcase of talent, though it only intermittently succeeds theatrically.

--David C. Nichols

"Jumping the Median," Other Space, Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 19. $20. (562) 547-6207. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.