"Blood! Love! Madness!"

Review by Willard Manus

For the first show in its new home, the Ivy Substation in Culver City, Actors' Gang dusted off its 1992 production of "BLOOD! LOVE! MADNESS!," a trio of one-acts by the post-war Japanese writers Kichizo Nakamura, Kan Kikuchi and Shimizu Kunio (no translators are credited). Actually, only two of the plays have been revived, The Razor and Madman on the Roof; the third, The Dressing Room was substituted this time around by director Brent Hinkley.

The production played to sold-out houses in 1992 and has received good reviews in 2005, but its charms failed to move this reviewer. The Razor, which deals with a barber whose lowly status in the stratified Japanese society tempts him to slit the throat of one of his rich customers, seemed too long and heavy-handed (no pun intended). Madman on the Roof involved a couple hiring a sorceress to cure their dimwitted son's mental problems. Combining low comedy with much mugging, shouting and crowd-scene chaos, the play annoyed me from beginning to end; it was commedia del'arte without the comedy or the art; I kept wishing for the son to jump off the roof and end it all. The Dressing Room was a backstage drama offering no less than four actresses competing with each other to play Lady MacBeth. Such is their ambition that they will lie, connive and commit crimes to get the role. Caricature can only get a playwright so far; fifteen minutes of it would have been ample, fifty minutes became torture.

The only things I liked about the production were Sibyl Wickersheimer's multi-layered set design and Ann Closs-Farley's imaginative costumes. 9070 Venice Blvd. Call (310) 838-4264 or visit theactorsgang.com