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Mind and body are one is the metaphor made manifest in Detachments, Colleen Dodson-Baker's comic turn at the Tiffany Theatre. Unfortunately, its not a full turn.
The playwright is well served by Glenne Headly in the central role of Ellen, a woman whose detaching retina subjects her to all kinds of medical traumas while she is simultaneously trying to hang on to her nebulous boyfriend Garry (Albie Selznick).
Headly is the grounding element, giving Ellen a deadpan unaffected persona. Her voice is almost uninflected, causing Albie to declare he's detaching because she never shows any emotion.
Dodson-Baker is a sharp funny writer and makes some acerbic points. Her use of language is indicative. Characters are repeatedly saying, they're thinking about thinking about making a change, as if sidling up to even considering a decision. She talks about the "way you choose to see". Ellen says she needs to "listen faster."
Ellen is the daughter of a solo synchronized swimmer which implies she has never learned to relate to other people. Maybe that's why she chose Garry, who starts out as a dork and never gets over it.
The second act never gets over a lot of things. Ellen meets transvestite Christine/Christopher (Victor D'Altorio) who says he might be interested in her when he's being Christopher, but then he vanishes from the play.
Garry and Ellen break up, get together, break up, get together, with no new ground broken. Ellen's closure keeps splitting open. As Garry appears more and more of a dork, she becomes less of a sympathetic character.
"Did you mourn?" someone asks.
Finally Ellen mourns out loud in a scene where she breaks out of the repressed pain and rage of a lifetime into some sort of catharsis.
The final scene, almost like a finale in a musical in form, gets all the actors on stage to present various aphorisms and comments, including one which underlines the play's governing metaphor by pointing to the third eye in the middle of the forehead, the Buddhist symbol of insight.
A clever scenic and lighting design, in which neon signs designate the various locales, give the production polish.
Dodson-Baker herself directs the cast to smoothly underplay and demonstrates a deft instinct for pace and choreographed staging. Unfortunately, the playwright gets no help from the director in remedying the play's structural sag. Too bad.
Thar's talent in that there pen!
Written and directed by Colleen Dodson-Baker
Cast: Ellen (Glenne Headly); Dr. Stratton, Christine & Others (Victor D'Altorio); Val & Others (Timothy Davis-Reed); Zoe & Others (Thea Mann); Usher Consultant & Others (Laraine Newman); Janet & Others (Jamie Rose); Garry & Others (Albie Selznick); Patrik & Others (Ian Patrick Williams).
Set Design: Victoria Profitt
Lighting Design: Marianne Schneller
Costume Design: Tom McKinley
Sound Design: Julie Ferrin
Running Time: Two hours with ANintermission
9/09/2000-10/29/; opening 9/18/2000.
The Tiffany Theatre, 8532 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. Phone: (310) 289-2999
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on Sept. 21