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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

Who is Bunbury? In The Importance of Being Earnest Bunbury is a figment of the character Algernon's imagination who doesn't even a cameo part but is merely the offstage excuse Algernon gives for leaving London. This supposed sick friend was transformed into its own word, bunburying. Now, that highly imaginative playwright Tom Jacobson has taken pity on Bunbury and others of his ilk and given them their own play at last.

Jacobson's Bunbury cast includes Rosaline, Romeo's unseen first love; Allen, the young husband of Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire; and Sonny Jim, the son who never was of George and Martha in Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff? There's no end of fun to be had with these people if you're clever enough to parrot their creators' styles, which this playwright is.

A slyly funny writer, Jacobson is not one to hit us over the head with a message. Nevertheless, images of spirituality and idealism are always present in his work. When Rosaline rescues Romeo from dying in that crypt, she changes literary history through the ages -- happy endings become the norm, making "as happy as Madame Bovary" a cliché. Bunbury begins carrying a lily, which was Oscar Wilde's trademark, but as Bunbury's quest deepens, it becomes reminiscent of the lily's use as a symbol of renewal in sacred symbolism and Bunbury wonders if they can't take it a step beyond, creating happy endings for the whole world. Jacobson hints at a possible line of inquiry in the results of abolishing tragedy in life and art though it' s a road he doesn't fully explore.

The play has a wonderful Alice in Wonderland quality, emphasized by Sibyl Wickersheimer's set whose curved and hilly carpet/pasture centers the stage, creating the kind of visual atmosphere we're coming to expect from this set designer. Director Mark Bringelson follows the playwright's lead by giving the play the bright surreal quality of illusion but allowing the actors plenty of time to realize where illusion leads. The excellent cast is headed by Sean Wing whose Bunbury grows from an autocratic twit to a man with a lily and a mission. Ann Noble, a delightful comedienne, is a real find as Rosaline. Stephanie Stearns makes a delicate Juliet and Blanche. Michael Dempsey lends gravitas to Old Algernon and other senior roles while Zach Dulli complements him nicely as Young Algernon and makes Blanche's Alan a boy we want to know longer.

Jacobson's play is complex and open to various interpretations. He subtitles it A Serious Play for Trivial People. Some may consider it a trivial play for serious people but it's as fast and funny as farce and can be enjoyed on many levels.

Playwright: Tom Jacobson
Director: Mark Bringelson
Cast: Sean Wing (Bunbury), Ann Noble (Rosaline, Gwendolen & Masha), Peggy Billo (Lady Bracknell, Olga, Martha & Old Cecily), cot M. Burklin (Hartley, Romeo, Vladimir & Robert Kennedy), Michael Dempsey (Friar Lawrence, Lawyer, George & Old Algernon), Zach Dulli (Algernon, Allen & Jim), Steven Reisberg (Jack & Estragon), Stephanie Stearns (Juliet, Cecily, Irina & Blanche)
Set Design: Sibyl Wickersheimer
Lighting Design: Henry Sume
Costume Design: Samantha Wright
Sound Design: David B. Marling
Fight Choreographyer: Kelly Van Kirk
Puppets by Tony Urbano & Carl Johnson
Running Time: One hour 30 minutes with no intermission
Running Dates: September 30-December 4, 2005.
Where: The Road Theatre Company, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Ph: (866) 811-4111
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on October 8. Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on

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