Masterfully Horrible

What a bizarre choice for a theater company with the temerity to claim (in both press release and program) that it intends to present "theater with a message." Yes, in their production of John Strand's Lovers and Executioners, the Master's Repertory spends almost three hours presenting theater, but they do so with no clear message—unless that message somehow involves the joy of homophobia.

Strand's adaptation of the 17th-century French comedy La Femme Juge et Partie by Antoine Jacob de Montfleury concerns the presumed-dead Julie (Jayne Daniels) disguising herself as a man so she can return to spy on her husband, Bernard (David Jensvold). The work doesn't do much to explore the themes of deception, betrayal and forgiveness it briefly touches upon, instead reveling in the cheap, easy laughs of gay jokes (get it—she's dressed as a man!!).

Now, normally one would want to exercise benevolence and encourage a budding theater company to realize its dream. But this production's sheer insipidness can't help but thwart such unaltruistic impulses. Painfully inexperienced acting; unrehearsed, even out-of-control stage combat; inconsistent and distracting attempts at accents (we're set in France in the 1660s, so why does one actor attempt a Cockney accent, and poorly at that?); and an impoverished set that includes a "brick" wall that—I kid you not—flutters in the breeze created by passing actors. Best of all, an actual fountain onstage bubbles constantly, drowning out the actors' sluggish attempts to create some semblance of rhythm with the rhyming verse.

Such annoying details and the general lack of vision make you wonder how many rehearsals director Mitchell Cazier actually attended and honestly undermine the nervy gesture of calling yourself the "Master's Repertory." The only message I found? Simply egregious.

lovers and executioners at Master's Repertory Com.pany at the Huntington Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 550-4700. Fri., 8 p.m. $12-$15.


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