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January 10, 2016:

Act 3… reviewed by Rob Stevens

The Laguna Playhouse started off 2016 with the U.S. Premiere of David Ambrose & Claudia Nellens’ two-hander comedy, Act 3… What the ellipses are meant to represent is never revealed but there are a lot of missing ingredients in this outing. He (Charles Shaughnessy) and She (Rita Rudner) have been cohabitating for 12 years, at a house in the Hamptons as well as an apartment in New York. He is a successful novelist and playwright who is currently having trouble with the third act of the new play he is writing. She is a travel consultant/designer whose retractable coat hanger doubles as a neck brace or hemorrhoid cushion. Both have been married in the past and being of a certain age, don’t seem that anxious to marry again. However, she is annoyed with his constant flirting with other women and she is sure he has cheated on her repeatedly. When he accuses her of being “dumb,” she retaliates with a dictionary, thesaurus and a sexy secret identity. Posing as a besotted fan, she begins a flirtatious email affair with him. He soon wants to escalate it to actual physical contact but she puts him off with tales of traveling the world, using a handy world globe to come up with exotic locations.

act3

Martin Bergman’s direction is fairly static—the actors are often delivering what amounts to monologues (their emails or their thoughts) in solo spotlights. The set pieces of Jim Prodger are constantly gliding on stage or back into the wings but the whole enterprise becomes a bit monotonous after awhile. Act 3… is charming and funny at times but at barely 90 minutes it really doesn’t need an intermission. Rudner is a great physical actress and gets a lot of laughs with her outré poses. Shaughnessy’s allure is magnetic and though his playwright might be having third act problems his libido certainly is not. They make a lovely combative couple. It’s a pleasant enough outing and a chance to see two pros doing what they do best. You just wish they had something better to do.

3stars

Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Rd. in Laguna Beach. Ends Jan. 31. www.lagunaplayhouse.com or 949-497-2787.

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