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Theater review: 'California Dreamin'' at the MET Theatre

February 17, 2012 | 10:00 am

Calif ornia Dreamin'

In "California Dreamin'," playwright Jill Charlotte Thomas dramatically speculates on the events that led to the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969. Although still gelling, her surreal fantasia shows considerable promise in its MET Theatre premiere.

Thomas explores the officially ignored anecdotal evidence that Charles Manson (Tyson Turrou) became friends with coffee heiress Abigail Folger (Ivy Khan) in 1968. Synoptically framing the scenario with patriarch Peter Folger (John F. Goff) at Abigail's memorial service, Thomas' episodic script moves from ironic to unnerving as the unthinkable approaches.

Director L. Flint Esquerra gives this schematic material a suitably prismatic approach, establishing cultural attitudes with the Nixon/Cambodia headlines dominating the newspapers that carpet designer Thomas Meleck's minimalist set. Costumer Rhona Meyers provides a sharp array of era clothing. Sound designer-composer Joseph "Sloe" Slawinski makes period standards and creepy original music almost another character.

Turrou, avoiding a flat-out impersonation, takes his time locating the psycho beneath the stoner-messiah charm, just as Khan, whose quality recalls the emerging Barbara Hershey, is initially too understated as Abigail. Yet when their mutual fascination goes askew, you can't deny the frissons.

Goff's halting emotion suggests his recent Ernest Hemingway in "The Leopard" gone corporate. Kathleen Coyne as his egalitarian ex-wife, Mark Deliman as Abigail's combustible Polish lover, Rachel Kerbs as her sardonic best friend and Philip Sokoloff's various satiric archetypes are other notable turns amid a tireless group effort.

However, the show sometimes resembles an American College Theatre Festival entry on LSD. That's understandable, given the property's identity issues, here a sociological treatise, there a psychological study of attracted opposites. "California Dreamin'" warrants attention, also further rewrites.


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"California Dreamin’," MET Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 11. $20. (800) 838-3006. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

Photo: Ivy Khan, left, and Tyson Turrou in "California Dreamin'." Credit: Irene Hovey.