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PHILADELPHIA An Arden Theater Co. presentation of a play in one act by Dennis Raymond Smeal. Directed by Terrence J. Nolan. Sets, James Kronzer; costumes, Anne Kennedy; lighting, Daniel MacLean Wagner; sound, Jorge Cousineau; production stage manager, Patricia G. Sabato; production manager; Brad Russell. Opened, reviewed Jan. 23, 2001. Running time: 1 HOUR, 30 MIN.

Mike                            Peter Pryor
Ellen                        Megan Bellwoar
Ward/Dr. Brown/
  Client/Gun Guy           Howard Overshown
  Best Morn/Receptionist      Mary Martello

I'm happy." "No, Mike, you're shallow." That "part-cute" divorce dialogue -- closely allied to the "meet-cute" kind -- pretty much sums up this amiable, confused, talky play about a lawyer who cracks up, becomes a pizza-delivery guy and spends his time telling us how "everybody should have a job they're overqualified for." Mike's trip to and back from the edge of madness was written by a lawyer-turned-pizza delivery guy, Dennis Raymond Smeal, who needs to keep one of his other jobs.

The play is mostly monologues directly addressed to the audience. Characters coach us on how best to understand the point while winking, nudging, whining and pleading for our sympathy. Peter Pryor is one of those gifted actors who can make the flattest of effects interesting, but even his skill cannot keep us engrossed in a play that leaves too much unaccounted for while still trying to suggest the unaccountable mystery of the cosmos.

Although the sequence of events is governed by memory, not chronology, we finally piece together the key epiphanic moment: Mike's daughter is the only light in his life, but when he finally wigs out and starts hearing voices, having already purchased a gun, he nearly shoots her in his wife's bed, apparently mistaking a 5-year-old girl for a grown man under the covers.

We still don't know what happened after the 911 call since we leave him standing in the bedroom with a revolver in his hand, weeping. Nor do we know why, after six months, all his cases are still waiting for him if he wants his job back in the law firm. We do know, however, why he's such a non-person: His mom abused him.

Metaphors abound. There's the earthquake metaphor for cataclysmic change, the radial keratonomy metaphor (to "fix your vision so you'll see what love is") and the ever-popular astronomy metaphor, with much gazing at the stars. The title is the overriding metaphor: After somebody shoots him in the shoulder, we hear that the bullet didn't hurt much going in, but the exit wound was hideous.

Howard Overshown is particularly good in his many roles, while Megan Bellwoar as the wife/ex-wife merely chirps her lines. The direction is unremarkable, as is the set.

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Title Annotation:Review; Arden Theater Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Author:ZINMAN, TOBY; Pryor, Peter
Article Type:Theater Review
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Feb 5, 2001
Previous Article:THE THIRD ARMY.

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