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Writing for Us

A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Hiding Place


I'm proud to be a man of the theater — Leon, the actor
The Hiding Place is, apparently, a simple, straightforward play, but I was confused during the whole first act but that's because I was trying to make the plot more complicated than it was. For example, I thought the older man might be the younger man at a later time. And because I thought the two waitresses were different characters when they appeared later.

So, let's get this straight. The waitresses are Jean (Jen Kays), a would-be actress, and Myra (Megan Tropea), a would-be playwright. The three men are Karl, the writer (Brian Shnipper), Leon, the actor (Jan Munroe), and George, the artist (John Szura). And Katrina (Christine Stump) is Karlís wife and Georgeís art dealer. Simple. Straightforward.

All three men are attracted to the saucy Myra, but Leon is too old and George is gay, so itís Karl who makes the connection. Playfully, he and Myra decide to write to each other and leave the letters in a secret hiding place in the middle of New York City. Eventually, of course, this exchange of letters leads to a more intimate, sexual relationship. But after only one encounter, Karl abandons Myra and returns to his wife.

The heart-broken Myra extracts her revenge by writing a play about the letters and the relationship. And who plays Myra and Karl? Jean and Leon!

Jeff Whitty, who won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical for his smash hit Avenue Q, is the author of this witty play. The men, well aware of their own quirks and limitations, joust with each other verbally. Leon, who has been "slumming at Lincoln Center" has presented 13 autobiographical monologues in 20 years, which brings his life right up to the present moment, and he bemoans the fact that he will have to wait years until he has enough material for his next monologue. "I am proud to be a man of the theater," he says, relishing "the utter risk of it."

Quoting Saul Bellow, Karl tells Myra that "a writer is a reader moved to emulation." He calls himself a Luddite: he uses a typewriter instead of a computer. "These self-effacing types so love to be admired," says his wife. "People donít want to create any more," Myra the waitress says, to which Karl adds, "they want to belong."

Stung by their breakup, Myra writes a final letter to Karl, telling him "You never knew me! What you knew of me I invented for you from my imagination." Karl, however, believes that "love and imagination are the same impulse."

There is much to ponder in The Hiding Place, and much to admire. The actors are uniformly good and well-directed by Kevin Fabian. The dialogue is bright and often funny. The set is a bit iffy, though: it is sparsely furnished and everything is painted black. The costumes, too, are lackluster and unimaginative. And since Elizabeth V. Newman is listed as the props coordinator, I have a suggestion for her: how about, when the actors pour the many drinks they supposedly consume during the play, there is actually some kind of liquid in the bottles from which they pour and in the glasses from which they pretend to drink? Ironically, one of the empty drinks (Georgeís) is embellished with real ice cubes. Watch for it.

The Hiding Place
By Jeff Whitty
Directed by Kevin Fabian
Cast: Jen Kays (Jean), Jan Munroe (Leon), Brian Shnipper (Karl), Christine Stump (Katrina), John Szura (George), Megan Tropea (Myra).
Lighting Design: Bosco Flanagan
Sound Design: Tim Labor

Running Time: 1 hour and 35 minutes, includes one 10-minute intermission
Attic Theatre Ensemble and Attic Studios, The Attic Theatre and Film Center, 5429 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, 323-525-0600 extension 2, www.attictheatre.org
From : 05/23/08 to 06/28/08; opening 05/23/08
Tickets: $20
Reviewed by Cynthia Citron based on 05/24/08 performance

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