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Theater review: ‘Margo Veil’ at Odyssey Theatre

June 16, 2011 |  5:50 pm

IMG_0885 “All my memories feel like guests arriving at the wrong parties,” complains one of the characters lost in the funhouse hall of mirrors that is Len Jenkins’ “Margo Veil.” One likely reason: They’re not her memories.

The illusory nature of personal identity lies at the heart of Jenkins’ intricate, entertaining mash-up of old-time radio melodramas, noir thrillers and futuristic sci-fi, staged with skill, vigor and atmosphere in a superbly synergistic co-production from Evidence Room and Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Recurring fragments of imagery, dialogue, characters and songs link multiple interlocking stories as the play’s eponymous heroine jumps from life to life through an outlawed technology enabling  “accurate body transfer” (a conceit allowing eight talented actors to each assume multiple roles). From her initial incarnation as a sultry aspiring actress (Dorie Barton) whose one-night career ended with a Broadway flop, she becomes a blind Lithuanian peasant girl (Brittany Slattery) who captures the amorous attentions of rival magicians (Daniel Bess, Jeremy Shranko), and then a Midwestern acting teacher (Lauren Campedelli) valiantly trying to separate illusion from reality. A fellow “jumper” incarnates as a caddish author (Bess) and a hammy veteran thespian (Tom Fitzpatrick) who confuses his homicidal role with his true self (or his self of the moment).

The tales-within-tales structure is a perfect fit for director Bart DeLorenzo, who consistently rises to intellectual challenges and honors playwright Jenkins’ love of storytelling in its myriad forms  (including the amusingly over-the-top second-person “you are there” narration favored by radio plays). 

Because these stories connect more through dreamlike associations than linear rationality, interpretation becomes highly subjective. My take is that the whole piece unfolds in the dream life of an unseen character referenced at different times as “Sherry,” who might be a failed actress projecting herself into Margo (à la David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive”); or, she may be a more ancient weaver of stories. The fun lies in making your own sense of the dizzying array of clues, regardless of whether the puzzle is ultimately solvable.

–- Philip Brandes

“Margo Veil,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. select Wednesdays and Thursdays (check schedule), 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays (except June 26 and July 31 at 7 p.m.). Ends July 31. $25-$30. (310) 477-2055 or Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Photos, from top: Brittany Slattery and Colleen Kane; Dorie Barton and Tom Fitzpatrick. Credit: Enci