THEATER REVIEW

Hippodrome's 'Life X 3' packed with laughs


From left, Richard Warner, Nell Page and Ibi Janko add dysfunction to a dinner party in "Life X 3," now at the Hippodrome State Theatre in downtown Gainesville.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to the Sun
Published: Friday, January 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2004 at 11:26 p.m.
0h, the games people play. Yasmina Reza has one going in the guise of her play "Life X 3," now playing at the Hippodrome State Theatre. Playing her game are four brilliant actors: Cameron Francis, Ibi Janko, Nell Page and Richard Warner. Under Mary Hausch's spirited tongue-in-cheek direction, this foursome makes Reza's game fun to play.
"Life X 3" is not a profound comedy. It does have pretensions.
Reza has taken two Parisian couples, one successful in academia, the other not, and brought them together for a misbegotten evening. Henry, the unsuccessful astrophysicist, and his career-minded wife, Sonia, are first seen in their handsome apartment quarreling over their child, who cries offstage, looking for attention.
Their mean-spirited arguing over how to quiet the child is interrupted by a visit from Hubert and Inez - Hubert the successful academician, Inez his put-upon wife. They have arrived for dinner on the wrong night. All the same, they are allowed in for an evening of chocolate cookies and CHEEZ-ITS, washed down with glasses of Sancerre.
Without breaking a sweat, Inez proceeds to get thoroughly and effectively drunk. The conversation among the four plays with one-upmanship, be it raising a child (debates ensue over proper dental care and eating cheese in bed) or Henry's new research paper (Hubert takes pleasure in informing him his work has been superceded by a Mexican team).
Henry is dismayed at Hubert's news. Sonia is contemptuous of her husband. Hubert smugly enjoys their discomfiture. Inez keeps the ball rolling with layman's questions about the subject - "the flatness of galaxy halos." When the one-upmanship has gone as far as it can go, the couples bid each other a rancid goodnight.
Reza's conceit is to take this act and replay it two more times, varying the reactions each time and, in fact, creating new personalities for the characters. Henry is no longer obsequious in the second go-round. Sonia drops the hard-bitten career woman attitude and plays footsie with Hubert. Inez continues to get beautifully drunk.
Their third mutation takes the characters on yet another variation.
The Hippodrome's production is smart and funny, moving with the speed of light for 90 minutes without intermission. It is worth seeing if only to enjoy Nell Page as Inez, who is very funny as she slides into drunkenness. Page uses none of the stereotypical characteristics of the drunk. She cleverly creates a whole new image for inebriated women driven to drink by pompous, self-important husbands.
Richard Warner plays Hubert, Inez's condescending husband and accomplished academician, with an endless supply of smarminess. Ibo Janko as Sonia gives a versatile performance, easily moving from arrogance to coyness and displeasure during the play's three spins. Cameron Francis, the woe-begone Henry, is comical in his confused efforts to please his wife, child and mentor. He, too, is adept at switching gears over the course of the play.
"Life X 3" may not tax your mental energy, but it should entertain you and make you laugh for 90 minutes.
And that's a good deal in anyone's book.

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