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Theater in LA: 'greedy' Is Good

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Ivana Milicevic and Amanda Detmer (Photo: Kurt Boetcher)
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What do you do if you get an e-mail from a stranger in distress who just came into a huge inheritance, but urgently needs your help secreting the money away from menacing political or family figures? Of course, you'll be rewarded with a generous cut of the proceeds yourself if you're willing to do the right thing and take part in the plan. Obviously you e-mail back and say "I'm in!" Right?

Well, that's what happens in Karl Gajdusek's stage thriller greedy, which just opened its west coast premiere production at the El Centro Theatre in Hollywood. Paul (Kurt Fuller, alternating in the role with Peter Mackenzie) is a just-past-middle-aged physician whose career has been stymied by a malpractice suit. Though clearly ambivalent about his Bosnian trophy wife Tatiana (Ivana Milicevic) and her yearning to have a baby, Paul is unhesitant in responding to an email from a young woman claiming that her hold on her recent inheritance, and indeed her life, are under threat from her violent brother. And a few days later, he receives a genuinely valuable Nazi-era gold medallion, an "artifact," from her in the mail.

Needless to say, it's all a scam. Ne'er-do-well party girl Keira (Maggie Lawson) has recruited her reluctant brother Louis (Brad Raider) to join her plot to defraud Paul of a cool 100 grand. And she even gets him to let her use the bizarre historic medallions their late father had collected to set up the trap.

Meanwhile, Louis's wife Janet (Amanda Detmer) works as a security guard at the local hospital, where a newborn baby has been mysteriously abandoned. As childless couples from around the country show up with false claims that the little one is really theirs, Tatiana quietly approaches Janet and suggests there might be a cool 100 grand available for her if she lets Tatiana slip past her to where the baby is being kept.

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Even if Gajdusek's intriguing plot twists portend a little bit more than they deliver at the end, director James Roday's journey through the motivations and machinations of these five emotionally desperate characters is always compelling and often chilling. The design team (Kurt Boetcher, Mike Durst, Gali Noy, John Zalewski, and Kerry Derzius) creates a lot of atmosphere on a relatively small stage. And the whole cast is great.

greedy, a Red Dog Squadron production, plays Thursday through Sunday evenings at 8 p.m., through January 29, at the El Centro Theatre, 804 North El Centro Ave. Tickets $23 on the Red Dog Squadron web site, $13.50 on goldstar.