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Wheel of Fortune 

A frustratingly undramatic play, with lots of promise but no heat

Wednesday, Nov 5 2003
John Steppling has a reputation in L.A. as an edgy experimental playwright, but his newest script -- being world-premiered at Intersection for the Arts -- has no edge at all. As in Contagion, the last play he premiered at Intersection, characters talk past each other in oblique, almost riddling lines, and as I wrote about Contagion at the time, "This is not a new so much as a boring way to write a script." Still, this Campo Santo co-production brings a lot of talent onstage, especially Alexis Lezin, who plays Marie, the wife of a man who's in a mysterious coma. She breeds roses. She's also bloodied her hand by punching through a leaded, stained-glass window, rendered onstage for some reason as a heavy panel of glass brick. Her speeches are witty and clear, but we never learn why her husband Gerald (Michael E. Lacy) is in a coma, or why two detectives (Paul Santiago and Michael Cheng) keep interviewing her. The result is a frustratingly undramatic play, with lots of promise but no heat. Hector Correa has directed patiently, Marcus Shelby has written a cool and understated jazz score, and I could watch Nora El-Samahy (playing two characters here) for hours, no matter what she has to say. But it adds up to a lot of wheel-spinning.


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