LA Weekly Pick Of The Week: Sweet Steinbeck

Take a trip back 60 or so years to a sweeter, gentler time, when alcoholic bums were jovial and kind and bordello madams had a heart of gold. Robb Derringer and Matt McKenzie (who also directs) have beautifully adapted novelist John Steinbeck’s sequel to Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, into a three-act stage play with music. Steinbeck’s early line about how “gossamer threads of steel” connect everyone in this small community is diligently played out in the adorable love story that ensues. Doc (Joe McGovern) returns to his Northern California beach town after World War II to resume his marine biology experiments. Suzy (Lela Loren) is a fresh-off-the-bus cutie who is not cut out for working at Fauna’s brothel/finishing school. The motley crew of locals conspires to repay Doc’s enduring kindness with two separate schemes. Musical director London Shover shines playing bluesy steel-stringed guitar, while other colorful characters intermittently accompany him on flute, harmonica and muted trumpet. Performances are all pitched a little larger than life, but somehow it works. A highlight is a spirited swing dance number. The writers collaboratively weave comedy, humanity and insight into a delightful tale that is true to Steinbeck’s original. Chuck Erven’s authentically cluttered set and Audrey Eisner’s period costumes are perfect. Pacific Resident Theatre, 703 Venice Blvd., Venice; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Sept. 30. (310) 822-8392, (Pauline Adamek)

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