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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Dark Rapture

By Laura Hitchcock

This is what we really want deep down - catastrophe. . .---Ray

The dark is for film noir and the rapture is for the glee of slipping the surly bonds of middle America with $5,000,000 your unfaithful wife was going to launder for a pair of gangsters. Playwright Eric Overmayer uses these concepts as bookends for his literate funny meditation from characters as disparate as a pair of Armenian assassins bent on revenge for the fabled Turkish genocide of 1917 and a mysterious Cuban who claims to be the second hit man on the grassy knoll who assassinated John F. Kennedy.

"History is a living wound," snarls Tony, the tall Armenian, as he staunches it with a bullet through the head of a Turkish used car salesman. Overmayer may not have intended the resonance stemming from the dual casting of the darkly versatile David Mersault as both Turkish victim and Cuban assassin seeking revenge for the Bay of Pigs but it certainly works under the gifted direction of Larry Biederman.

Overmayer's anti-hero is Ray, a wannabe screenwriter who has no trouble dumping Hollywood when a fire destroys his house and gives him the chance to abscond with the money his wife Julia has trusted him to deposit while she's in Cabo San Lucas boffing her pool man Danny. If this were a movie, there'd be gorgeous photo ops for the locations this couple find themselves in on their sex and money high.

Ray flees the flames for rainy Seattle where he meets Renee, a sultry Cuban, at a coffee bar. He wonders dimly what brings her on vacation so far from palm-fringed Key West but she soon makes him forget that. The labyrinthine plot is interrupted by the afore-mentioned Armenian assassination scene. When we next meet Julia, she's standing up with svelte disdain to suspicious lawyers Scones and Mathis, played by the actors who later play Lexington and Vegas, the hoods who want their five million.

Though treating them with the contempt deserved by a couple of gangsters straight out of Kiss Me, Kate (Vegas is even alarmingly well versed in the classics), she agrees to help them search for Ray who she declares is dead. But we find Ray in Key West with a ditzy blonde named Max, tracked by Babcock, the Cuban assassin. Don't worry if the logistics of this dense plot escape you. Overmayer may be paying homage to his inspiration, Raymond Chandler, who once wrote a mystery novel about which he had to confess to the film producers that he didn't know who the murderer was.

Anyway it's a mesmerizing hoot and amazing to watch the cast slither through the shoji screens and create the locations on Keith Mitchell's split-level set. Craig Pierce's lighting is so consistently film noir a few scenes are almost invisible but the actors soon find their spots.

Katy Selverstone is an elegant unforgettable bad girl as Julia, Nick Offerman as Ray lets us know he's always writing in his head, and the supporting cast are as enjoyable as those wonderful character actors in a Jacques Tourneur 1940s classic.

Playwright: Eric Overmayer
Director: Larry Biederman
Cast: Nick Offerman (Ray), David Mersault (Babcock/Nizam), Katy Selverstone (Julia), Jeffrey Johnson (Danny/Ron/Lounge Singer), Don Oscar Smith (Lexington/Scones), Kylan Kenin (Vegas/Mathis), Christian Anderson (Tony/Bartender), Sarah Sido (Renee/Waitress), Shanti Reinhardt (Max).
Set Design: Keith Mitchell
Lighting Design: Craig Pierce
Costume Design: Audrey Fisher
Sound Design: John Zalewski
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with one 10-minute intermission
Running Dates: September 25-October 30, 2004.
Where: The Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles. Phone: (213) 381-7118.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on October 1.
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