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Theater review: 'Bridge' at the Complex's Ruby Theatre

November 17, 2011 |  3:08 pm

Bridge photo
Willard Manus’ “Bridge,” now at the Complex’s Ruby Theatre, is awash in genuine fervor and sincere intention.  However, when it comes to craft, it’s a tad desiccated.

The action is set entirely on an urban bridge -- nicely realized in scenic designer David Svengalis’ gritty set. There, against the backdrop of lighting designer Sarah Templeton’s inimical evening skies, a nameless, soulful saxophone player (William Stanford Davis) tootles his nights away (miming to saxophonist Leslie A. Jones’ excellent live offstage playing).

A self-appointed “guardian” of the bridge, the saxophonist is called upon to help various suicidal visitors wrestle with the “angel of death” that is prompting them to jump.  As will later be revealed, he has his own tragic history associated with the bridge and has wrestled with his own demons there.

Speaking of wrestling, Davis is called upon to tackle and subdue three potential suicides in near-comical replication.  The characters cover essentially the same emotional territory, varying more in ethnicity and gender than in motive. The first wannabe suicide is a strung-out female meth addict (Josie Martineaux) with a tragic secret in her recent past.  The second is a distraught Japanese musician (Yuki Matsuzaki) who has been recently and terribly bereaved.  The third is a desperate Latino drag queen (Donald Roman Lopez) who has suffered a devastating loss. 

All the actors, under the guidance of director Kelly Galindo, deliver performances that are unquestioningly heartfelt.  But Galindo encourages her cast to wallow in the piece’s overbearingly tragic elements rather than shoring up this shaky “Bridge” with the steely underpinnings that would result in genuine catharsis.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“Bridge,” Ruby Theatre at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays. (Dark Nov. 24.) Ends Dec. 18.  $25.  (323) 960-7740.  Running time:  1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: William Stanford Davis, left, and Yuki Matsuzaki in "Bridge." Credit: Claire Mallet.