Edinburgh Festival: Fringe round-up: Viper's Opium

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The Independent Culture
Last year's hit show Road Movie was always going to be a hard act to follow for Starving Artists, and so Godfrey Hamilton's play about two recovering alcoholics in LA has proved. Cricket is a blowsy hippie, five parts earth-mother to five parts Southern belle, who can't hold down a job. Curtis is a gay man who says he's pitching a movie called Viper's Opium. They meet and then, like some modern day Romeo and Juliet, fall in love, destined to be torn apart by conflicting emotional and sexual needs. It's a tough plot to make credible, still less moving, and not even a couple of fine performances from Mark Pinkosh (brilliantly neurotic) and Kathryn Howden save the day. From its over-extended film metaphors ("I'm a slow fade. I'm a dissolve. I'm an end title") to its cheesy dinner scene, Viper's Opium seems strangely distant from real life, presenting dystopian Los Angeles and doomed love as filtered by Hollywood's rose- tinted lens. Or, to put it another way, it suffers from the Leaving Las Vegas syndrome: mistakenly pushing the romantic chic of the dispossessed.

n Traverse. To 31 Aug (0131-228 1404)