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Theater review: ‘Askance’ at Eclectic Company Theatre

December 20, 2011 |  1:09 pm

Long-buried sins surface with disastrous consequence in Kerr Seth Lordygan’s “Askance,” a serious-minded but overreaching new piece presented by his Eclectic Company Theatre.

Centered around the troubled residents of a soon-to-be-shuttered assisted living facility, Lordygan’s drama employs parallel timelines to unravel the mysterious ties between Milly (Kenlyn Kanouse) and Irving (Joseph Cardinale), a constantly bickering elderly couple (is there any other kind in a nursing home play?), and their dementia-afflicted fellow tenant, Sylvia (Ivy Jones).

On the plus side, the plot is capably constructed, alternating scenes between present-day Milly and Irving, preparing for their imminent eviction, and their youthful 1950s selves (Beth Ricketson, Adam Coggins) in the early stages of their relationship. The two timelines converge in the traumatic reveal that has shaped the course of the marriage.

Keeping the pivotal events under wraps until the finale effectively emphasizes the play’s message about the destructive effect of unspoken truths. Trying to speak them is where the play runs into problems. The labored dialogue bears little resemblance to the way people talk, from oddly cryptic exchanges (“Where did you go?” — “Just into the darkness”) to awkward anachronisms (Irving’s WWII recollection about his urging liberated Dachau prisoners to “Do your thing” to their captors). Stream-of-consciousness monologues immersing us in Sylvia’s deteriorating mind are particularly overwrought.

Director Sabrina Lloyd has an uphill battle here — in a talky piece with philosophical aspirations it’s never a good thing when the most compelling moments occur when no words are spoken. Among an uneven cast still grappling with some lines, the standouts are Ricketson, RJ Farrington as a  caustic nurse and Frank Krueger as a morally conflicted doctor. The harrowing basement abortion sequence is a cautionary reminder of a sordid reality that can’t be legislated out of existence.


More theater reviews from the Los Angeles Times

-- Philip Brandes

Askance,” Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 6 p.m. Sundays (dark Dec. 24, 25 and 31). Ends Feb. 12. $25. (818) 508-3003 or Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Kenlyn Kanouse and Joseph Cardinale. Credit: David Nott.