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LVLT’s ‘The Other Felix’ takes on more than it can pull off

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Double vision: Mario Mendez plays Felix … and The Other Felix.
Richard Brusky
Jacob Coakley

Reina Hardy’s The Other Felix is in town, and Las Vegas Little Theatre’s production of its 2013 New Works Competition winner tries to combine gambling, stolen identities, magical realism and an homage to noir gumshoes into a meditation on love and regret, but nothing seems on target.

The story follows the travails of one Felix Bettleman (played by Mario Mendez), a low-life hustler who casts off his identity to commit fraud under a new name—only to find the identity picked up by an even more malicious fraudster (the Other Felix, also Mendez). An old-school P.I., Marlow Sharpe (played by Ashley Patrice Bufkin), appears as Felix’s guardian angel, promising to straighten it all out for him.

Calendar

The Other Felix
Through May 12; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $10-$15
Las Vegas Little Theatre, 362-7996

It would be easy to blame Bufkin for a lot of the awkwardness in this production. She works so hard to deliver patter like a pulp gumshoe she practically spits sawdust, but her posturing keeps the audience at a distance, and the timing of her delivery seems to kill a lot of the jokes. Yet as the crazy girlfriend Lili, Bufkin is truly demented. And it’s not her fault that within 30 seconds the play goes from merely purple-prosed to completely off the rails—that’s more the fault of a playwright stretching to backfill a plot that relies too much on woo-woo “theatricality.” Instead of being a poetic leap of dream logic, the climax plays like frantic hand-waving.

It seemed director T.J. Larsen was just as befuddled. Certain staging bits were clever—the driving of a car, for example, and motel rooms hiding in a folding wall—but the blocking felt rote or stiff most of the time. He guided his actors through broad character arcs and choices, but the inner lives of those characters felt unexplored, and too many moments (either tender or funny) just didn’t land. As the eponymous Felix, Mendez was frantic or hangdog as required, but little beyond. His growing realization that he still cared for Lili, and its attendant regret, never reached the poignancy it needed.

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