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Theater review: ‘Parents Who Love Too Much’ and ‘Control Me’ at Unknown Theater

March 18, 2010 |  8:30 pm

400.0007 _MG_4681[1] One of our most durable theatrical gadflys, Michael Sargent, known for his frequently graphic and outrageous plays, premieres two surprisingly tame comedies at Unknown Theater.

Chris Covics, who directed and designed both plays, stages the curtain raiser, “Parents Who Love Too Much,” in the theater’s lobby. Rude, loud, funny and broad, “Parents” is set in a 12-step meeting for nightmarishly inadequate parents – many of whom are attending by court order. The actors range from competent to rough, but Covics keeps things briskly amusing and the high-decibel nature of the show distracts from any glaring inadequacies.

Set in the 1990s, the main offering, “Control Me,” transpires in a New York radio station -- a location nicely realized in Covics’ detailed set. Late-night talk show host Long John Silver (Bruce Katzman) and his wife and co-host, Cherry Rogers (Maria O’Brien), regularly court controversy. This time, their guests are a group of wild-eyed nut jobs who claim to have been hostages of a CIA mind-control program. Wacky lines like “I was a CIA sex slave” and “In the near future war will be raged by robots and zombies” enliven Sargent’s timely send-up of conspiracy theories.

But just when you were enjoying the satire, the guests depart, leaving Cherry and Long John embroiled in a heavy-handed dialectic about Cherry’s own CIA slavery – a baffling segue that fails to strike the intended note of paranoiac dread. It’s a disappointingly ersatz ending to what began as a delightfully crisp comedy.

– F. Kathleen Foley

“Parents Who Love Too Much” and “Control Me,” Unknown Theater, 1110 Seward St. Los Angeles.  8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays.  Ends March 27.  $18-$24. (323) 466-7781.  Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo:  "Control Me": Maria O’Brien and Bruce Katzman. Photo Credit: Chris Covics.