I LOVE THE SPIRIT WORLD, Go Cougars!, at Live Bait Theater. There's a bracing edge to writer-director Joe Meno's otherwise predictable catalog of California craziness. The land of imitation beauty, where "nothing's left to dream about," is seen through the eyes of a 24-year-old slacker, Jay, who works in an adult bookstore and lives with his parents. This latter-day Holden Caulfield searches for love but finds Hollyweird zombies: a suburban gangsta wigger, an apocalypse-minded boss, a pedophile who recruits victims from his church's youth shelter, a drug dealer who believes extraterrestrials introduced TV to subjugate us. Though Jay haplessly offers aid to a poor little rich teenager and grudging comfort to a lady who's had too many face-lifts, he can't help himself. The play ends abruptly, with Jay harassing a girl he thinks loves him because she waved to him while wearing a rabbit costume outside a car wash.
The knee-jerk wackiness of these demented characters takes a toll. Making the most of Jay's beat poetry confessions, James Vickery gives Meno's jaded antihero a loopy charm. The other performances feel less committed, though Edgar Blackmon and Steve Albertson are believable dead-enders as the affable bookstore manager and the wigger. Meno's 80-minute one-act delivers some clever riffs on death, sex, and destiny, but the flat ending is too arbitrary even for LA.