Trailer Park Ulysses

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.

It's not that they're television stars.

Maybe it's that they're a couple - not just onstage but in real life? Or maybe it's that they're gifted comedic actors playing a drama? Or maybe it's the fact that the play begins with a man - buck naked save for an apron - cooking sausage in an aluminum trailer?

There's something about Annapurna, Sharr White's play starring Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman at the Odyssey Theater, that's satisfying like comfort food.

It starts with the set. Tucked into the 99-seat theater is a replica of an aluminum teardrop trailer, you know the ones? Not an airstream but that wonderful curving arch of a roof. It's all there, kitchenette, bathroom, fold out sofa, nasty brown rug, what looks like a couple of months of newspapers and dirty laundry strewn on the floor. Behind and above the trailer, the blue backdrop of the Colorado Rockies. It's a fitting juxtaposition: the trailer a forgotten, disheveled icon surrounded by immense beauty. We're peering into this little contained world like voyeurs. The set, designed by Thomas A. Walsh, provides both context and compression instantly. You know the world you're entering into.

The play is a classic two person relationship drama. The setup: Ulysses, played by Mr. Offerman is a poet in the Kerouac-Bukowski-Shepard mold who's exiled himself to a remote trailer park in Paonia, Colorado. (I'll leave it to you to discover the connections between his epic name and this struggling artist.) Suddenly into this isolation barges a woman he hasn't seen in two decades: the mother of his child played by Ms. Mullally. We spend the 90 minutes of the play learning why she left him, why she's here, and why they fell in love in the first place.

For folks who only know these two actors from their TV comedies (Parks and Recreation and Will & Grace), their stage chops might come as a surprise. Lucky Angelenos will have seen both of them, almost a decade ago, in shows at the Evidence Room. In Annapurna they're directed by Evidence Room artistic director Bart DeLorenzo, and there's an ease and confidence to not only his direction but the whole production.

You can feel it most profoundly in the comedy. No one's pushing: they know they can make us laugh so they use jokes as punctuation: as little pauses to catch us off guard and draw us deeper into the story. It's comforting, reassuring. Ms. Mullally and Mr. Offerman play off each other effortlessly like . . . well a married couple.

For all the partnership, the play belongs to Mr. Offerman. He brings a gritty authenticity to this troubled cowboy poet. His charm, in nearly all of the Evidence Room productions, has been giving voice to gristled, pragmatic everymen. You trust him - even when the writing becomes a tad too self-indulgent.

Don't miss this one. It's one of those gems of LA theater, a chance to see two terrific actors in an intimate space.

Annapurna plays at the Odyssey Theatre in West LA through June 9.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.

Run time: 90 minutes without intermission