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Produced at the Santa Monica Playhouse.  An excellent play with lots of heady stuff. About a playwright whose characters become his analysts.

by Sam Toussi 
Daily Bruin Contributor

Anne Reiner, who has already established herself as a poet and psychotherapist, begins her playwriting career with "Mirage A Trois," which is running at the Santa Monica Playhouse through Dec. 31.

Reiner, the daughter of comic genius Carl Reiner, has written a funny and touching play dealing with the troubles of a confused playwright.

Jack (Randy Kovitz) is one year removed from his turbulent marriage to Lila (Shareen Mitchell). Lila is a remarkably strong and independent woman. But she drives Jack crazy, and in his search for stability, he runs into the arms of Brandy (Mary Ellen Lyon). Brandy just happens to be incredibly wealthy, which only adds to the image of her as the vision of stability.

Out of the blue, Lila calls Jack and asks him to dinner. It's obvious that they both still have feelings for each other. And as much as he says he loves his current wife, Brandy, there is something very stale and rigid about their romance.

Jack faces another complication. His latest play deals with a man who runs back to his ex-wife after he realizes he still loves her.

His confusion comes to a head when the characters in his play come onstage, begin to speak with him and eventually take over his life.

The play is brilliantly directed by Chris DeCarlo. His scrim work and soft lighting capture the "Moonlighting" feel of the play. All the actors are obviously in touch with their characters, and the rhythm of the play is perfect for its subject matter.

The script of "Mirage A Trois" drips with poetry, which is soothing to listen to and often makes some profound observations about the nature of love. Yet, at times, the play confuses the theater for poetry and ends up tripping all over itself.

Two especially kinetic characters stand out. Mitchell's Lila really puts sparks in the play because she kindles emotions in Jack. She plays the part of the bitch with surprising charm and wit. With her coy smile, she sets up her audience for scenes in which she opens up and reveals a soft heart.

Olivia (Molly Cheek), the counterpart to Lila in Jack's play, also stands out. Cheek has some of the most difficult dialogue in the play. Yet, the experienced actress pulls it off with beatnik flair. Even if her audience gets infinitely confused with her lamentations about love, they can rely on her expressive face and soothing voice to convey every emotion she goes through onstage.

As for Kovitz, at times, his performance is charming, neurotic and funny. It is very reminiscent of the Woody Allen shtick.

But when he falls into a pattern of frequent complaints, the audience almost knows what to expect, and Jack seems less and less likable. The audience cannot sympathize with him because his choices seem so obvious.

That is not necessarily Kovitz's doing.

It seems that because the playwright's strongest characters are women that Jack should have been a woman dealing with men. Jack is more of a male stereotype than a real man.

"Mirage A Trois" is an incredibly enjoyable play filled with a lot of choice and funny dialogue. At its core, though, the play is about choosing between stability or excitement and why we make the choices we make.

THEATER: "Mirage A Trois" plays at the Santa Monica Playhouse through Dec. 31. Tickets are $20 with discounts for students, teachers, seniors and groups of 16 or more. Call 394-9779 for more information.

Thursday, October 23, 1997

'Mirage a Trois' kindles emotion, draws laughs

THEATER: Poetic dialogue acted out beautifully with levity, expressive rhythm


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