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Theater review: 'Breaking and Entering' at Theatre 40

August 20, 2009 | 12:30 pm

Breaking-and-Entering In "Breaking and Entering" at Theatre 40, thriller conventions intersect with an ornate treatise on truth and illusion. Colin Mitchell's comic mystery about a reclusive author besieged by his would-be protégé is both more interesting than many a predecessor and more ungainly. 

Fifty years ago, Wallace Trumbull (Steven Shaw) wrote a masterpiece, then retreated to his well-guarded upstate New York home (richly depicted by set designer Jeff G. Rack). At the outset, Trumbull follows the World Series, until a power outage permits Milly (Meredith Bishop) to hoist herself into his living room.

A Trumbull fan since college, Milly has written the novel "Breaking and Entering" about this very

encounter, which she wants him to read. The ensuing cat-and-mouse calls into question whether Milly is all that unhinged or Trumbull as talented as his reputation indicates.

It's an admirably complex script, the outcome in doubt up to its denouement. Yet, though director Mark L. Taylor gets considerable mileage from Jeremy Pivnick's lighting and Bill Froggatt's sound, the tension comes and goes. Shaw and Bishop do competent work, although his Art Carney aspect isn't exactly menacing and her nervous emotionalism lacks nuance.

Moreover, scattered excerpts from Trumbull's magnum opus sound purple rather than masterful, and certain plot points are convenient beyond credibility. The schematic device of the play commenting upon itself -- embodied by two sportscasters (Lary Ohlson and Christopher Gehrman) -- is an intrusive contrivance. "Breaking and Entering" is easily a cut above typical boulevard fare, but would benefit from more enigma and less explication.

-- David C. Nichols

"Breaking and Entering," Theatre 40, 241 Moreno Drive, Beverly Hills. 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 6. $23-$25. (310) 364-0535. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Steven Shaw and Meredith Bishop in "Breaking and Entering." Credit: Ed Krieger