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Theater review: 'Passengers' at Raven Playhouse

August 12, 2010 |  4:00 pm

Passengers In the Vagabond Players presentation of Sam Bobrick's "Passengers" at the Raven Playhouse, life is a bus station, and we're all caught between arrivals and departures.

Case in point: the opener, "Waiting," as agitated Michael Coons informs fellow travelers that they are dead. This inflames Linda Mayer's tickling repressed poet, though Ron Wells' white-collar drone thinks they're bonkers. Enter Cindy Dellinger in frump mode, leading to an ironic fadeout.

There lies the tone, as director Lewis Hauser stages his skilled cast in flux between sitcom brashness and bittersweet twists. "Baby Feet Frank" finds Richard Remppel's rubber-faced loser turning to larceny, prodded by wife Dellinger. "Old Friends" reunites director Hauser with childhood pal-turned-bag woman Lois Weiss. "A Better World" upends the Good Samaritan principal, with Mayer's victim, Remppel's cop and Leslie Simms' bystander forcing Coons into compassion.

"Here's Harry" is pure premise -- a widow gets the wrong ashes -- but Dellinger admirably maintains a straight face against Coons' outlandish revelations. "The Happiest Bride" is a gloss on the end of "The Graduate," with Mayer and Wells well-contrasted foils.

"Without Regrets," a duo-logue between employees Hauser and Simms on the bus station's last day, achieves noteworthy poignancy. The closer, "Last Bus," shrewdly pulls previous characters into the scenario described at the top.

Even so, Bobrick hasn't fully fused this omnibus into a whole, and he over-relies on zingers, perhaps to be expected from the author of "Norman, Is That You?" However, episodic TV fans and network casting entities may find "Passengers" worth a ticket purchase.

 -- David C. Nichols

"Passengers," Raven Playhouse, 5233 N. Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends Aug. 28. $15. (818) 206-4000. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Photo: Cindy Dellinger and Michael Coons. Credit: Sean Spence