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. . . and a Honkytonk Girl Says She Will

Los Angeles Times

by  Don Shirley

July 22

A 20-year-old playwright, Michael Sargent, who has been a member of playwright John Steppling's workshop since he was 17, has written two compelling one-acts, staged under the umbrella title of "Big Boy" at the Cast.

They deal with the pathology of sexual oppression (in "And a Honky Tonk Girl Says She Will") and the psyche of random, casual murder ("Big Boy"). The writing, the acting and Lee Kissman's staging are acutely calibrated, creating a tone that is curiously dreamlike and dangerous.

The accomplishments here are pristine and strangely poetic, rather like swimming underwater. On the surface, the intent points to a haunting vision of America. But the material goes beyond any particular shoreline.

This young playwright has a voice that is his own. The melancholy violence in these plays evidences a control and a sultry, numbing tension that transfixes even as it repels.

Actress Arizona Brooks (who suggests a very young Marilyn Monroe) is the "Honky Tonk Girl," actually an innocent in a sleazeball machismo world. Her performance has the power to linger in your unconscious. The contributions of five co-actors, notably Diane DeFoe's unspoken wretchedness and Michael Collins' grossness, are keenly etched.

The second play is less gripping by degrees because it is unnecessarily repetitive and the central character, a semi-dazed, emotionally paralyzed sociopath (Gill Gayle), is more a freak of violence than empathic. Sharron Shayne's Gypsy character who packs a suitcase full of dildos is scabrous in a strong 11-member cast.

Plays at 804 El Centro Ave., Friday s and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m., through July 31



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