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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
In the Land of the Giants.
By Jana Monji

Blair Tefkin
(Photo: Mary Ellen Baker)
You might recognize the theme song, orchestrated to suggest thrilling moments of danger in a fantasy world. From the 1968-1970 television series called, In the Land of the Giants, this opening music is canned, but the rest of the music is live, written and performed by Blair Tefkin.

Imagine a 1983 commercial rocket ship swallowed up during some irregular turbulence and spit out on a planet that was Earth-like except that the inhabitants were giants. Think a late sixties version of Gulliver's Travels. Then imagine playing a minor role in the series being the highlight of your acting career and you haven't even graduated from elementary school.

As a child actress, Tefkin beat out Jodie Foster for a guest star appearance on this sci-fi series. Foster somehow recovered from this early disappointment and although Tefkin didn't go on to Oscar nominations, she also recovered from a childhood spent being prodded and poked and judged by the adults who towered over her odd childhood.

On stage, Tefkin is a non-threatening presence. She doesn't exactly electrify the room when she comes out, takes up her bass guitar and faces the audience in her simple, sleeveless long black dress with a plunging neckline. Her light brown hair is a wild mass of waves, pushed away from her face by a thick, black headband. Backed up by Michael Kramer on drums and keyboard and Bernard Yin on guitar and bass, this trio looks like one of those small coffeehouse bands.

You might expect bitterness from a child star who peaked at about age 5, was heartlessly ignored by Nancy Sinatra and constantly criticized by her pushy stage mother. But Tefkin doesn't whine. She purrs in a mellow tone and percolates with sardonic wit.

She begins with "Bitter Songs". What do you do when your agent, your therapist and your boyfriend drop you at the same time? According to Tefkin, you go out and buy a bass guitar and teach yourself how to play and write bitter songs. Tefkin then recounts her journey to those dark days of rejection and beyond. Although she may have needed a therapist to give her courage to leave her childhood therapist, you sense she's not only a survivor but that she has a creative force that exists outside the blockbuster, megabucks mentality of Hollywood.

Tefkin's lot hasn't been all that bad. She's been in indie movies, was prominently featured in the sci-fi mini series V, won a few local awards for a play called Just Like the Pom Pom Girls. She also wrote and starred in a short film with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Eric Stoltz. As that bitter bass player, she played on the Lilith Fair tour in 1998.

Director Andy Fickman keeps the pace tight, yet nothing feels rushed. The whimsical chalk illustrations by James Mathers projected onto a small screen above and behind the band contribute to the informal, humorous feel of the production. With Tefkin's keeping the complaining and hyperventilating from being annoying the 1 hour 30 minute piece is funny without really trying so hard. Rarely cracks a smile, Tefkin's matter-of-factness and sense of irony make her likable enough to sustain your interest. It's almost like being entertained by a soon-to-be good friend who's letting you know how she got to where she is.
Playwright: Blair Tefkin
Director: Andy Fickman
Band: Blair Tefkin (bass), Michael Kramer (drums, keyboard), Bernard Yin (guitar, bass).
Lighting and Technical Direction: Stephen R. Ohab., Jr.
Sound Design: Jon Massena
Original Art Work: James Mathers
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes
The 2nd Stage, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. $15. (323) 960-7744.
Through March 13, 2004
Reviewed by Jana J. Monji on February 6.

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