Only the Dead Know Burbank (Actors Alley at El Portal; 60 seats; $ 16 top) Actors Alley presents "Only the Dead Know Burbank," a play in two acts by Peter Lefcourt, directed by Jeremiah Morris. Set design, Richard Scully; lighting design, Peter Strauss; costume design, Diane Ross; sound design, Steve Shaw. Opened Oct. 4, reviewed Oct. 20; runs until Nov. 17. Running time: 2 hours. Cast: Joe Garcia (Bill Faulkner), Stuart Fratkin (Ira Krensky), Mimi Cozzens (Betty), Jesus (Garrett House), Brent Crawford (Maintenance Man). It is fact that Nobel Prize-winning U.S. novelist William Faulkner worked under contract as a screenwriter for Warner Bros. back in the 1940s, and that Jack Warner was very reluctant to release him, claiming the studio owned Faulkner's talents exclusively at $ 300 a week for as long as Warner Bros. wished to exercise its option. Peter Lefcourt's flawed but still entertaining two-acter has the great Southern gentleman of letters still hacking out costume dramas on the backlot of Warners in Burbank, 34 years after his recorded demise in 1962. Faulkner never was comfortable or successful as a screenwriter but Lefcourt's premise has the now-99-year-old novelist (Joe Garcia) so in debt that he can't afford to give up the steady three bills a week, not even to die. The drone of his existence changes when young Ira Krensky (Stuart Fratkin), a brash, self-important writer of television pilots, moves into the adjoining office, sharing the services of stoic and ageless secretary Betty (Mimi Cozzens). To appreciate the fine work of Garcia and Fratkin in their respective roles, one must suspend the need to get answers to a few basic questions: If Ira, Betty, mailroom clerk Jesus (Garrett House) and even the maintenance man (Brent Crawford) know that one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century is pounding away on his manual typewriter in the back room, how come nobody else does? And if Faulkner has been surviving on nothing but bourbon and Cup-a-Soup all these years, how does he manage to look so young and healthy? Putting these questions aside, the heart of Lefcourt's work is the confrontation between an ageless artist who only knows how to tell the truth as he has lived it and a callow youth whose principal craft has been knowing how to work the system. Director Jeremiah Morris expertly guides the ensemble through the transformation of both men as Krensky frees Faulkner from bondage and sends him back to his beloved Oxford, Miss. In turn, Faulkner encourages the younger man into believing he actually might have a soul and a unique voice of his own. Garcia is a memorable study of dignity and grace as the Southern gentleman, and Fratkin's hard-edged, computer-generation scripter offers an amusing contrast. The supporting cast also is outstanding. Cozzens portrays Betty as a silent hawk whose only role in life is to protect and comfort the man she has served these many years. She's hilarious in her dismisiveness of Krensky. House's slick-talking Jesus is an awe-inspiring study in contemporary entrepreneurialism, a man who can get you anything you need at any time. And Crawford's nonchalant maintenance man is well cast as a union laborer who won't budge one inch into another union's territory. Richard Scully's inventive set design makes good use of limited stage space to effectively designate the office territories of Faulker, Krensky and Betty. Julio Martinez

Only the Dead Know Burbank (Actors Alley at El Portal; 60 seats; $ 16 top) Actors Alley presents “Only the Dead Know Burbank,” a play in two acts by Peter Lefcourt, directed by Jeremiah Morris. Set design, Richard Scully; lighting design, Peter Strauss; costume design, Diane Ross; sound design, Steve Shaw. Opened Oct. 4, reviewed Oct. 20; runs until Nov. 17. Running time: 2 hours. Cast: Joe Garcia (Bill Faulkner), Stuart Fratkin (Ira Krensky), Mimi Cozzens (Betty), Jesus (Garrett House), Brent Crawford (Maintenance Man). It is fact that Nobel Prize-winning U.S. novelist William Faulkner worked under contract as a screenwriter for Warner Bros. back in the 1940s, and that Jack Warner was very reluctant to release him, claiming the studio owned Faulkner’s talents exclusively at $ 300 a week for as long as Warner Bros. wished to exercise its option. Peter Lefcourt’s flawed but still entertaining two-acter has the great Southern gentleman of letters still hacking out costume dramas on the backlot of Warners in Burbank, 34 years after his recorded demise in 1962. Faulkner never was comfortable or successful as a screenwriter but Lefcourt’s premise has the now-99-year-old novelist (Joe Garcia) so in debt that he can’t afford to give up the steady three bills a week, not even to die. The drone of his existence changes when young Ira Krensky (Stuart Fratkin), a brash, self-important writer of television pilots, moves into the adjoining office, sharing the services of stoic and ageless secretary Betty (Mimi Cozzens). To appreciate the fine work of Garcia and Fratkin in their respective roles, one must suspend the need to get answers to a few basic questions: If Ira, Betty, mailroom clerk Jesus (Garrett House) and even the maintenance man (Brent Crawford) know that one of the greatest literary figures of the 20th century is pounding away on his manual typewriter in the back room, how come nobody else does? And if Faulkner has been surviving on nothing but bourbon and Cup-a-Soup all these years, how does he manage to look so young and healthy? Putting these questions aside, the heart of Lefcourt’s work is the confrontation between an ageless artist who only knows how to tell the truth as he has lived it and a callow youth whose principal craft has been knowing how to work the system. Director Jeremiah Morris expertly guides the ensemble through the transformation of both men as Krensky frees Faulkner from bondage and sends him back to his beloved Oxford, Miss. In turn, Faulkner encourages the younger man into believing he actually might have a soul and a unique voice of his own. Garcia is a memorable study of dignity and grace as the Southern gentleman, and Fratkin’s hard-edged, computer-generation scripter offers an amusing contrast. The supporting cast also is outstanding. Cozzens portrays Betty as a silent hawk whose only role in life is to protect and comfort the man she has served these many years. She’s hilarious in her dismisiveness of Krensky. House’s slick-talking Jesus is an awe-inspiring study in contemporary entrepreneurialism, a man who can get you anything you need at any time. And Crawford’s nonchalant maintenance man is well cast as a union laborer who won’t budge one inch into another union’s territory. Richard Scully’s inventive set design makes good use of limited stage space to effectively designate the office territories of Faulker, Krensky and Betty. Julio Martinez

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