F26 FRIDAY, JULY 18, 1997
'Unhappy' Gets Personal and Political
If opposites attract, then the pairing of a street-smart, gun-toting isolationist and a strait-laced, impeccably mannered bureaucrat would seem like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, nefarious forces keep conspiring to drive them apart in "An Unhappy Woman" at Silver Lake's Moving Arts.
Michael T. Folie's new futuristic comedy sets romance against a backdrop of biochemical mind control and armed citizens battling one another and a totalitarian regime. Star-crossed lovebirds Gayle and Hank (Robin Johnson, Richard Ruyle) get off to a promising start with a scathing argument in a subway station — Gayle's acerbic style intrigues squeaky-clean Hank, while his relentlessly sympathetic candor worms its way past her defenses. But as more details of his secretive government job come to light, her suspicions that he has a hidden agenda prove all too well-founded.
In well-matched performances, Johnson makes Gayle's self-protective bitchiness credible while Ruyle brings focused conviction to Hank's patriotic allegiance. The real gem in the cast, however, is Julie Briggs' hilarious portrayal of Hank's boss, Marjorie — a prissy intelligence operative bent on transforming unhappy individualists like Gayle into docile, contented sheep. Van Stewman Jr. is also effective as a transvestite ex-CIA assassin turned White House maid. But Madison Charap and Brendan Broms manage only one-note characterizations as Gayle's airhead roommate and a terrorist who prides himself on his own stupidity.
Michael Cullen's breezy staging keeps things surprisingly good natured despite the play's darker themes, and Folie's script also seems more interested in clowning than probing more sobering implications. Though hard-pressed to fill a full-length format, it's one of the more cheerful apocalyptic scenarios to come along in quite some time.
"An Unhappy Woman," Moving Arts, 1822 Hyperion Blvd., Silver Lake. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Aug. 31. $14. (213) 665-8961. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Richard Ruyle and Robin Johnson star in "An Unhappy Woman."