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The Scene Set in the New York City of today, a world bifurcated into a land of haves and have-nots, Theresa Rebeck's The Scene focuses on a lonely narcissist named Charlie, an out-of-work actor whose life slips slowly over the edge as he grasps for a hand up in a world populated by selfish, frightened bastards. Self-centered though he may be, Charlie (Jeffrey Bean) is an intensely interesting ne'er-do-well. Smart and angry, he's a master of language ready to spin his rage on the world at the least provocation. We first meet him at a fancy party where he's gone to schmooze and beg for a part in a new pilot. He's so mortified by his own deadbeat status, and by the entire scene, that he ends up drinking in a lonely spot of the high-rise with a buddy named Lewis (Liam Craig) and a young woman named Clea (Elizabeth Bunch). Fast and tight, the play cuts to a scene in Charlie's apartment where his wife Stella (Elizabeth Rich), a producer for a talk show, is blabbing about her day. Her job, which she "hates," is to book ungrateful guests, then make contingency plans in the likely event that they don't show. Of course, she's no less self-centered than he is. Just like Charlie, she rants endlessly about herself, mostly her work, while her anxious husband tries to make love to her. She just pushes him away. Rebeck's dialogue is deliciously rich with wry observation about the current human condition. Everything from television to overeating to vapid sex gets a moment to shine in all its glorious hideousness. But these fabulous lines wouldn't be worth much if the cast weren't up to the script. Happily, director Jeremy B. Cohen has found four actors who all seem born for their parts. Through November 25. The Alley Theatre, 615 Texas, 713-228-8421. — LW

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