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Word of Mouth

James Lecesne's short film "Trevor" was honored with the 1995 Academy Award for live-action short. It is based on "Dear Diary," one of the stories that make up Lecesne's one-person show "Word of Mouth." The film's producer, Randy Stone (who also produced "Little Man Tate"), has brought this stage piece to West Hollywood's intimate Coast Playhouse, and under Eve Ensler's directorial guidance, Lecesne's portrayals are meticulously detailed and lucid.

James Lecesne’s short film “Trevor” was honored with the 1995 Academy Award for live-action short. It is based on “Dear Diary,” one of the stories that make up Lecesne’s one-person show “Word of Mouth.” The film’s producer, Randy Stone (who also produced “Little Man Tate”), has brought this stage piece to West Hollywood’s intimate Coast Playhouse, and under Eve Ensler’s directorial guidance, Lecesne’s portrayals are meticulously detailed and lucid.

The evening consists of glimpses into the lives of some memorable characters who create their own realities from the stuff of this world and beyond. The work is strongly reminiscent of Lily Tomlin’s “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” And while not all the material is riveting, not one moment of Lecesne’s time onstage is irrelevant or redundant as he segues fluidly among characters, instantaneously managing to inhabit each of them completely.

The opening piece, “Like Dust,” introduces Frankie, a young Brooklyn resident who has become a “human satellite dish” with the ability to attract signals from other beings, both alive and dead, by way of his shortwave radio; his loud, long-suffering beautician mother, Josie, a one-time Miss Coney Island who is still fuming over being deserted by her husband years earlier; and mentally slow Uncle Buddy.

Frankie and Josie and Josie’s aggressive friend Marion appear in two more vignettes. Josie embraces her son’s strange abilities when she sees how good it is for her beautician business (all her customers want to contact their dead or missing husbands). Frankie, in turn, begins to learn more about his mother’s past and why she never wants to talk about his missing father.

Two of Lecesne’s more intriguing characters are the stately Isabelle Butarde, an elderly former British colonial in Africa, and the determined Southern housewife Shirley, who travels the world in search of Blessed Virgin sightings in order to find a miraculous cure for her daughter’s cancer. Lecesne’s characterizations are so emotionally vivid it matters little that these ladies tend to prattle on.

Two scenes devoted to British janitor Brian’s hospital vigil over his dying wife are less successful. Lecesne is quite believable as the working-class Brit but extends the material way beyond the stated plight of this man’s need to stay connected to his mate in any way possible.

The aforementioned “Dear Diary” is the true highlight of the evening. It chronicles the often painful journey into puberty of Trevor, a sensitive child who’s gradually realizing he is homosexual. It is his mother’s advice to her questioning son that provides this show’s title: “Not everything finds its way so easy from heart to word of mouth.”

Special mention needs to be made of the sound and lighting designs of Raymond D. Schilke and James P. Hunter II, respectively, which are as correct and seamless as Lecesne’s performance.

Word of Mouth

Coast Playhouse; 99 seats; $17.50 top

Production: Randy Stone, Stephen la Rue and 20th Century Fox Television, by special arrangement with Castlehill Prods., present a play in one act, written and performed by James Lecesne. Directed by Eve Ensler.

Creative: Sets, Bradley Wester; lighting, James P. Hunter II; sound, Raymond D. Schilke. Opened Dec. 7, 1996; reviewed Dec. 19; runs through Feb. 1. Running time: 1 hour, 15 min.

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