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Theater review: 'The Drowned World' at 6470 Theatre

August 27, 2009 |  5:35 pm

 DrownedDress163-1 It’s no wonder that, in the wake of 9/11, so many modern-day playwrights set their work in futuristic dystopias.  Recent examples include Philip Ridley’s envelope-pushing “Mercury Fur,” set in a ravaged and surreally violent Britain, and Craig Wright’s “The Unseen,” an existential prison parable set in a mysterious totalitarian state.

Welsh playwright Gary Owen draws from the same poisoned well that has fascinated so many of his peers in “The Drowned World,” his 2002 drama about a society of the ugly and deformed that is waging genocide against anyone who is beautiful.

Owen’s fantastical play, in which the malformed masses hold deadly sway over the best and brightest, could have been written by Ayn Rand in the middle of a psychotic break. That’s mostly to the good. In “World,” even the most dire and repugnant passages – and there are many -- take on a lyrical intensity that can be riveting.

Less enthralling is Caitlin S. Hart’s workaday staging, which misses some crucial opportunities. In the program notes, Hart proclaims her intention of drawing parallels between “World” and the atrocities of the Franco regime – a fascinating objective that could have given real political immediacy to the piece.  But a rudimentary production design gives little hint of the intended milieu, while uneven  performances further blunt the playwright’s poeticism. Maria Olsen gives the strongest turn of the evening as Kelly, a “citizen” who has been charged with hunting down the beautiful people she both resents and covets. Her quirkiness dovetails perfectly with Owen’s imaginatively eccentric vision.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“The Drowned World,” 6470 Theatre, 6470 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays.  Ends Aug. 30. $15.  www.plays411.com/drownedworld. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Photo: Maria Olsen. Credit: Andie Botrell.

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