Heal Thyself?

Therapy and cruelty in the days before drive-through pharmacies

The play begins quite stylistically, with all seven characters roaming about the same apartment apparently oblivious to one another. We gradually learn we're actually in five different apartments, and all of the characters are getting ready for a dinner party at Libby's (Patricia J. Francisco). The device is interesting stylistically as well as thematically (while the characters share the same fears and desires, they're mostly oblivious to one another), but it drags on a bit too long.

There is no plot in Blue Window. It's a character- and dialogue-driven play, one of those rare pieces in which what's truly happening is in those empty spaces between the lines. Saporito realizes this and guides her actors to carefully detailed performances that illuminate Lucas' very smart script and the underlying sadness beneath it. So while we hear characters wittily and intelligently discuss the merit of Moby Dick and the divisions between the left and right sides of the brain, we can feel the unhappiness and isolation each of them feels.

The ensemble works well together, with Francisco's vulnerable Libby, Shelly Frasier's utterly natural family therapist Boo, and Janie Lynch's complex Emily standing out. The play fells like a coming-of-age tale of the early '80s, kind of a younger Big Chill. Like that film, the message here is there are no easy answers. These characters are gripped by loneliness and isolation. They keenly crave community, but they aren't sure how to get there. And though the play ends on an apparently uplifting note, it remains pungently bittersweet. Griever (a very effective Andrew Kelley), up to this point the most apparently well-adjusted of all seven characters, ends the play alone and small, huddled in the frame of his window, staring down at the streets of Manhattan. Meanwhile, in her apartment, Libby eloquently imagines an existence in which we're able to realize the freedom of coming together rather than holding onto the fears that keep us drifting alone. It's a powerful and profound final image, proving that while there isn't much of a story in Blue Window, there is a lot of life. For better and for worse.

Kvetch at the Actors' Playhouse, 1409 E. 4th St., Long Beach, (562) 590-9396. Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through April 11. $12-$16;Blue Window at the Vanguard Theatre Ensemble, 699A S. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (714) 526-8007. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. Through April 3. $15-$19; student and senior discounts available.

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