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Reading the Paper


June 13, 2009    Publication:  The Kansas City Star

For some viewers the plays of Ron Simonian will always be an acquired taste. Others will simply buckle up and go along for the ride. Mark me down somewhere in-between. Simonian is an intuitive writer drawn to the odd characters on the margins of society, where delusions are regularly shattered by harsh reality. His narrative gifts pull us along and his sense of humor is often inspired. But he also has a weakness for pat resolutions and his depiction of women remains problematic. Anything laudatory or questionable about a Simonian s work is on view in Desperate Times Desperate Measures, a surrealistic crime story set in Los Angeles in the mid-to-late 70s.On its most basic level this is a tale of two losers desperate for cash who foolishly accept the assignment of driving a drug shipment to a dealer in Fresno. On another, it s the story of a man who experiences bizarre religious visions and finds salvation of a sort. The setup: Ricky Melikian (Tom Moriarity) is a garbage-truck driver supported by his hooker girlfriend, Eileen (Melissa McGinnis).After a cigar smoking, foul-mouthed version of Jesus (Nathaniel Card) appears to Ricky in a drug-induced vision, he flees to his church confessional. There Father Mark (Ric Averill) hooks him up with a no-nonsense dealer with anger-control issues named Cory (Pete Weber).This generally well-acted production reaches its sublime heights when Ricky and his lounge-singer buddy Jack (Dean Vivian) arrive in Fresno to exchange a kilo of coke for $5,000 from the Draconi brothers (Andy Garrison and Jeff East).Most of Simonian s characters are stereotypes, but he often manipulates them in original ways and his dialogue is so sharp that good actors can do wonders with the material. Garrison, as the little brother who has killed and maimed for his sibling but who has now found religion, and East, as the brutish boss of the operation, are so good that you hate to seem them leave the stage. Their performances are a showcase of comic timing. Indeed, Simonian and Kyle Hatley, who co-directed the show, capture strong performances from most of their actors. The weak link is McGinnis, whose acting chops are too limited to sell us on an implausible character that would challenge even a skilled actress. The bare-bone production employs minimal props and scenery, although lighting designer Margaret Spare at times an impressive sense of atmosphere. Desperate Times Desperate Measures runs through June 28 at the Off Center Theatre in Crown Center. For tickets call 816-842-9999 or go to . Kansas City Star, The (MO) Date: June 13, 2009 Copyright (c) 2009 The Kansas City Star

Review - 'Desperate' works best with Garrison, East on stage: News
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