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FOR BORING TALK, HERE'S AN 'OPTION'.

Byline: Evan Henerson Theater Critic

IT MAY NOT be entirely fair to ponder the dramatic might-have-beens had Dakin Matthews - an exceptional actor as well as an erudite author/director/translator - starred in his new play ``The Savannah Option.'' Possibly even opposite his wife, Anne McNaughton, who directs ``Option's'' world premiere production for the Andak Stage Company in NoHo. Whether he's playing classics or contemporary, Matthews as performer tends to burn up a stage. And this two-character play sure could use some heat.

It's not that Michael Winters and Julia Fletcher - the actors who play a pair of long-winded intellectuals - aren't up to snuff. They're fine: credible, callow (when needed) and occasionally capable of getting an audience to feel their wounds.

Unfortunately, ``The Savannah Option'' is 95 percent a head play, a psychological theory brought smartly but icily to life. What human sparks there are come late and aren't especially arresting. We're less invested in whether these two brilliant but lonely souls have a shared romantic destiny than whether they might lose each other as conversation partners. They should certainly keep talking. Preferably out of anybody else's earshot.

Manuel Perry (Winters) is a poet. Emilia Balisteri is a biologist. Manny's wife - Emilia's best friend - is dying of cancer, meaning Manny is essentially living at her house for easy hospital proximity. As Manny wrestles with his growing love for Emilia, and the accompanying guilt, the two profs cook meals and discuss some of the finer points of evolutionary psychology. How much does nature - human or otherwise - dictate whether a man placed in Manny's position will behave or how Emilia will respond?

The play is set at a Savannah, Ga., college. Choices (options) are key themes. There is also a character (unseen but crucial) named Savannah.

There is not, alas, much reason to invest. ``The Savannah Option'' is intelligently written, but living term papers don't often carry much dramatic heft.

Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651

evan.henerson(at)dailynews.com

THE SAVANNAH OPTION - Two stars

Where: NewPlace Theatre, 4900 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday; through March 13.

Tickets: $20 Fridays and Saturdays, $18 Thursdays and Sundays. Call (818) 506-8462.

In a nutshell: Intellectually stimulating but not much of a love story.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 5, 2005
Words:378
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