What could be a more perfect remedy for a brutally hot L.A. summer than a chilly New England snowstorm?
That's the cool setting for "Einstein and the Polar Bear," the Colony Theater's winning, sharp-tongued romantic comedy written by Tom Griffin ("The Boys Next Door").
Kinetic performances, tight direction and smart, tart dialogue keep this spirited production right on track at Burbank Center Stage.
With its rural setting and small ensemble of outsiders and colorful locals, "Einstein" unfurls like a winning episode of TV's "Northern Exposure."
Brilliant, famed novelist Bill Allenson has fashioned a life of exile, along with his senile, elderly father, in a stuffy old house/used book shop where he doesn't have to deal with the public or his feelings.
Much to his surprise, and his chagrin, Bill's solitude is disrupted by an unexpected visitor in the shapely form of Diane Ashe, a single New York City woman whose car has broken down en route to her aunt's house.
With the snowstorm raging outside, Diane ends up spending the night at Bill's.
Almost immediately, these two strong personalities dance a witty jig of repulsion and attraction, tossing scathing, intelligent barbs at each other with uncanny precision. Old wounds are opened and new healing begins as an unlikely love blossoms.
The evening is peppered with visits from locals, including Charlie, who bears a know-it-all personality similar to Cliff from TV's "Cheers," and Helen, a doting but disheartened woman coming to grips with her cheating husband.
The sparks between Diane and Bill are in danger of being extinguished as the locals begin to suspect Diane's car trouble was more planned than accident.
"Einstein" gets its offbeat title from two subplots woven throughout the narrative. Bill's senile father, Andrew, constantly recounts a story about how he once met Einstein in a coffee shop, though he only gets bits of the story out at a clip. Meanwhile, an escaped polar bear from the zoo is being tracked by the locals, including Bill, who can't bring himself to shoot the creature.
Lead actors Liann Pattison and David Rose fashion genuine chemistry as Diane and Bill, finding the required comic timing in their delivery.
Lon Huber carves out an entertaining performance as Charlie the mailman and the superb Jodi Carlisle simply steals her scenes as the ditsy yet emotionally complex Helen.
Director Silas Cooper keeps the performances sharp and focused, never losing sight of the tortured souls underneath the characters' quirks and stylized banter.
This is a fun play -- an offbeat, character-driven romantic comedy with brains, heart and sass.
Are we all fated to find
our true love? Maybe. But, as in the case of Bill and Diane, sometimes
a little strategic manipulation is required.
Copyright 2001, Times Community