A scene from Hit, by Alice Tuan, at Los Angeles Theatre Center.
A scene from Hit, by Alice Tuan, at Los Angeles Theatre Center.
(© Ed Krieger)

The new play Hit by Alice Tuan, currently playing Los Angeles Theatre Center, unevenly shifts from hard-hitting drama to black comedy to avant-garde theater yet never makes clear its intentions. And though the actors are skilled professionals, they are not able to make the script's unlikable characters relatable.

After twentysomething Kim (Kahyun Kim) crashes her car into that of bartender Mank (Justin Huen), they begin an affair. Kim attempts to use her sexual energy with Mank to give her the confidence to dump Luc (Lenny Von Dohlen), her adoptive mother's lover, who Kim has been sleeping with for 10 years. Her best friend, Serena (Taylor Hawthorne), hopes to set Kim on a healthier path, but Serena has her own secrets that complicate the already messy situation.

Kim is a complex character who could have given audiences a glimpse of a lost soul drowning in Los Angeles' disconnected world, but unfortunately she lacks depth. Kim reveals little of her soul despite the audience's knowledge of her bad choices and traumatic youth. Instead, she comes off like a whiner rather than survivor we're meant to see her as. Kahyun Kim's interpretation of Kim is part of the problem. Though Kim's character may be unlikable, she does nothing to convince audiences that her character is worth getting to know.

Carolyn Almos, who plays Kim's mentally unstable adoptive mother, is the most intriguing character, one who might have made a better protagonist. Her actions drive the play's momentum more than Kim's, and her choices, though distasteful, are fascinating. Hawthorne also portrays a loving energy as the best friend whose own life choices are sublimated so she instead can be Kim's voice of reason. As the sleazy and self-involved Luc, Von Dohlen is an enthralling villain.

Though some of Tuan's dialogue is insightful (her apt perceptions about Los Angeles and the human condition reveal a talented writer), the play's style is confusing, with some scenes rooted in realism and others in absurdism. There are Oedipal elements, too, including a love triangle between a child and parents, as well as cannibalism à la Titus Andronicus. But the writing doesn't evoke the epic nature of the classics. This play is ordinary at its core with characters that don't warrant such grandiose themes.

In Hit, the theme of toxic individuals infecting others could has dramatic potential. However, because none of play's elements gel, the story is more bewildering than impactful.