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Just 45 Minutes From Broadway -- Theater Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
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Playwright Henry Jaglom's homage to theater people is populated with a host of eccentric but lovable characters who bring to mind Kaufman and Hart's "You Can't Take It With You."

Although Jaglom's work contains several inside jokes, there are plenty of one-liners certain to tickle general audiences. Director Gary Imhoff establishes just the right balance between the comedic and the serious elements, as, underneath the humor, Jaglom is exploring the contrast between the artistic life and the conventional existence.

The story revolves around a family of actors who have seen better days living in upstate New York. The father (Jack Heller) is descended from pillars of the Yiddish theater but long ago transitioned to the English-speaking stage. His wife (Diane Salinger) is part-Jewish, part-Italian, with a little Chickasaw in the mix, and is something of a mystic. Her brother (David Proval) is temporarily staying at their home while playing a small role in a nearby dinner-theater production of "Guys and Dolls." The household also includes an aging character actor (Harriet Schock).

The couple's younger daughter (Tanna Frederick) has come home to recuperate from a failed love affair. Although she adores the life she has led in show business, her elder sister (Julie Davis) resents having been put on the stage as a child, and so she left home to pursue a more traditional profession. When she brings her "civilian" fiance (David Garver) to meet her family, he surprises everyone, as the proceedings take unexpected twists and turns.

Although this is an ensemble piece, some of the work warrants particular mention. Heller projects an aura of authority, with a commanding presence that dominates the action, and Frederick moves effortlessly through an array of emotions. She and Garver, who exudes a quiet magnetism, engender a palpable chemistry together. Proval is hilarious and at times oddly touching. The remainder of the cast members acquit themselves admirably. The overall effect is greatly enhanced by Joe Daavid's impressive set design.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Venue: Rainbow Theatre Company at the Edgemar Center for the Arts, Santa Monica (Through Dec. 20)