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Theater review: 'Sin' at Playhouse West Repertory Theater

November 26, 2009 |  2:00 pm

400.Wrath  "From the sky, the world is perfect," says Avery (Elena Fabri), the lofty-minded heroine of "Sin," but things on terra firma are the opposite of flawless. Therein hangs Wendy McLeod's edgy 1994 dramedy at Playhouse West Repertory Theater.

First produced in Chicago by the Goodman Studio, "Sin" fuses contemporary character study to medieval mystery play. We're in San Francisco, circa 1989, where traffic reporter "Avery Bly in the Sky" gauges everyone by her ethical standards.

They inevitably disappoint, being modern versions of the Seven Deadly Sins. Michael (Lance Delgado), Avery's estranged husband, is a slothful alcoholic, roommate Helen (Holly Clapham, cast against type) a slovenly glutton. Blind date Jonathon (Bradley Hasemeyer) proves a greedy yuppie, poet Louis (Rocky Benoit) reeks of lust. Co-worker Fred (Vito Viscuso) envies new boss Jason (Jason Fox), a wrathful climber. 

It falls to Gerard (bravura Tim Coultas), Avery's prideful, AIDS-stricken brother, to pierce her sanctimony from his deathbed. Then the earthquake hits, bringing Avery down to Earth in every sense. 

McLeod ("The House of Yes") has a gift for dialogue and a fearless way with unsympathetic characters. Fabri, an actress of considerable nuance, keeps us intrigued as Avery. Her colleagues vary in stage technique, but everyone has their moments, especially in the upended stakes of Act 2.

What "Sin" lacks is a narrative that stays ahead of its audience, the predictable proceedings falling short on dramatic momentum.  That bedevils Tony Savant's staging, which is resourceful yet riddled with air pockets, essentially an acting-studio showcase.  You can't beat the free admission, though. McLeod fans may find the virtues in this erstwhile parable.

– David C. Nichols

"Sin," Playhouse West Repertory Theater, 10634 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Also, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13. No show Nov. 27. Ends Dec. 13. Free. (626) 429-8905. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

Photo: Jason Fox and Elena Fabri. Photo credit: Jen Booth