“Sixty Minutes From L.A.” has the feel of a soap opera, which is both good and bad.
A la “The Big Chill” and “Return Of The Secaucus Seven,” play by first-time playwright Lisa Nichols who also stars, centers on four women in their 20s who reunite to plan their 10th high school reunion.
It’s not surprising that the dramatics are staged by soap star Stephen Nichols who is Patch on NBC’s daytime drama, “Days of Our Lives.” He is also one of two male leads and co-produced the production with his wife, playwright Nichols.
Play is a semi-autobiographical, based on Nichols’ experiences growing up 60 miles from L.A. in Lancaster, where the play is set.
Thematically, it’s about people who are forced to confront their past — those who have made peace with it and others who are still struggling to bury it, such as Lisa Nichols’ character, Samantha or Sam as she is known.
“I was one when John F. Kennedy was shot,” she laments at having grown up in the ’70s, and the aftermath of the ’60s when there wasn’t anything to identify with.
Samantha is a rebel who aspired to be an investigative journalist but instead dabbles at writing, living in L.A. but in the shadow of her boyfriend (Stephen Nichols), a successful pulp fiction writer.
In fact, each of the characters has his tale of woe. Shelly (Eileen O’Sullivan) married a man she didn’t love and stayed in Lancaster. Her true, lesbian-hinted affections has always been for her friend Lori (Jana Howard), the high-school cheerleader who married for love, but who stifles her emotions to be liked by all. Cindy (Elizabeth Hipwell) has had a rough go of it in marriage and to escape her dreary life in Lancaster has become the town gossip-monger.
High-school teacher and Nichols’ one-time fling Dennis (Scott Mulhern) has come to terms with his life in Lancaster. Still, his surprise appearance at the reunion-planning event causes a commotion.
There’s lots of “remember whens” about menstrual cycle films, slumber parties, soaping windows and drunken escapades that shed light on the characters.
Mostly, however, such trips back to the past are excuses for fits of emotionalism, which serve as show pieces for the performers. Fortunately, the acting is quite good.
Lisa Nichols is outstanding as chain-smoking Sam, a strong woman who turns limp for her boyfriend. While Stephen Nichols plays a certified no-good sot to the tee, he looks and acts more like a rock star, with his shoulder length hair, all-black attire and boots with glass-like toes that alone are scene stealers.
O’Sullivan is a great cynic; Mulhern is good as the unassuming teach, and Howard is perfectly cast as Polly Purebread.
Hipwell gives it the high-school try, but goes a bit too far with the screaming Mimi routine. Why is it that bimbos like the character she plays are always costumed in those unflattering spandex tights?
Sybil Gray’s monocromatic black and gray costumes worn by all and Vincent J. Cresciman’s similarly colored simple living room set were overt symbols about the characters’ lives.