Owen Carey
The New House

Artists Repertory Theatre, 1516 SW Alder St., 241-1278, Tues-Thurs, Sun 7 pm, Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm, closes June 27. $15-32

The playbill for Artists Repertory Theatre's premier of The New House quotes William Faulkner: "There's nobody in LA with any roots. Even the houses are built with mud and chicken wireÉ Basically it's the plastic asshole of the world." Multi-lane superficiality and over-consumption are begging the gods to suck Southern California into the Pacific, and yet it attracts the most beautiful and ambitious people in the world. The rest of the world looks at Los Angeles with equal parts disgust and envy.

The New House, an adaptation of Goldoni's play La Casa Nova, is set in contemporary Venice Beach, an update on Goldoni's Venice, Italy (LA is, in fact, the great-granddaughter of Venice, Italy, inventor of the original Ghetto). Anthony (Tim True, on a nice roll from Gilgamesh to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) is a once-successful hair metal producer whose buttrock glory days were of VH1: Behind the Music proportions. But behold the accountant, Frank (the home-grown genius Tony St. Clair), who arrives with some bad news: Anthony's completely broke. With a 17-year-old daughter set for college, and a 21-year-old trophy wife hurling cash into converting their house into a SoCal Taj Mahal, Anthony faces the greatest crisis of his life.

ART's ensemble is energetic. As the teenage angsty poet Minnie, Grace Myrtille is totally charming if not a little manic. Kali Stivison's botox bombshell Cecilia is perhaps a little too near a Barbie doll in delivery, but is nevertheless cute as the coquettish cokehead. Supporters Joseph Gallina, Carmela Lanza, and Sarah Lucht provide the backbone of the cast, delivering some of the most subversively subtle lines of the play.

It's true, the gentry still have all the time in the world to lament their woes and find more trouble for themselves, but it's definitely a grand guilty pleasure to take in the soap operatic melodrama, especially in the hands of playwright/adapter Joseph Fisher. Fisher, who recently completed his stint as playwright-in-residence for Stark Raving Theatre, has crafted a play that cleverly combines cynical wit with some real nuggets of life affirmation. TOUSSAINT PERRAULT