That transitional period between life on Earth and one’s eternal destiny has proved to be fertile territory for theater (“Steambath,””Don Juan in Hell, “”Carousel,””Our Town,” etc.). James Metropole takes a lighthearted, if somewhat unfocused, view of this situation as five confused individuals gather in a purgatorial holding area that, as one character describes it, “looks a little like Bakersfield.” Metropole has compiled a number of intriguing elements to spice up this spiritual journey but they don’t really don’t lead anywhere.
Sgt. Flo (played at a one-note bark by Hoagy Forrester), the dense but enthusiastic Pvt. Butch (Drew Antzis) and the low-class but colorful janitor, Rattner (Joe Cremora), greet newly arrived souls in a nondescript room they call the “grand ballroom.” In the first act, this disparate group of characters tries to figure out why they are there and, of course, what will happen next. A uniformly competent cast gives credence to each character.
Katherine Dwyer as college professor Pam Pernot and John Larsen as a latter-day Schopenhauer are quite effective as dueling pseudo-intellectuals. Tania Gutsche is properly “clueless” as wide-eyed but motor-mouthed Windy from Chicago. Veronica Alcino literally dances off the walls as nubile, opportunistic ballroom instructor Harmony. And Dwight Turner is a tower of impotent, right-wing rage as arch conservative Richard Richards.
In the second act, the “savior” Grunzunkle (Bruce Fisher) arrives to instill order and pass judgment. Fisher, though almost larger than life as a physical specimen, plays this eternal judge in a benign stupor. He barely seems to be conscious, even as he is dancing a moderately competent cha-cha with a very willing Harmony.
Metropole is satisfied to have each of his character’s “hidden sins” exposed by the mildly amused Grunzunkle and then be marched off to “somewhere else” without judgment or insight as to what will happen next. Except for Rattner, played with a marvelously gritty irreverence by Cremora, none of the characters are allowed to grow or evolve.
Though he has proved himself in earlier works to be one of L.A.’s more unique theatrical voices, in this play, Metropole short-changes his characters and the audience.