We Have Others
Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Hella Fresh Theater at a Private Residence
Through October 24
My Uber driver was concerned for my safety when I told her where I was going for the play I was reviewing this week. Of course I am used to going to some dodgy places to see plays. This time, however, I had been assigned to see a show in the kitchen of someone’s second floor apartment, in a building along a moonlit street in Culver City.
“You gonna be chopped up into pudding,” the Uber driver opined as she shook her head, pulling up to the stucco covered, mid-century apartment building. “You gonna be dunked in quicklime! This sort of thing happens to folk!” She went on to describe how an Uber-driving friend of hers was lured to an isolated area of woods where her passengers pulled out knives and chased her through the forest cackling. I noted that this story struck me as a tad apocryphal, particularly since I think most Ubers have panic buttons in case of this sort of issue. She winked and dropped me off, leaving me to my fate.
In fact, I might just as well have not worried, as playwright John Rosenberg’s quirky site-specific romantic comedy is exactly what it sounds like – a play staged in an apartment. On the other hand, it also means inviting a group of strangers into an apartment to criticize the decorations and furniture and perhaps raid the refrigerator and steal the toilet paper.
Rosenberg’s play is actually a simple work of dialogue-driven edginess. Dusty (Dustin Wilfert) breaks into an apartment in the hopes of finding his old friend and drug buddy Chris, whom he believes lives there. However, the apartment has been sublet to young shopgirl Addi (Alina Abramovich), who is understandably alarmed when this strange man barges into her place. What could be a threatening situation unexpectedly shifts into character-revealing conversation – and then into subtle flirtation. And, yet, each of them have secrets that are gradually revealed.
With the audience seated on the sofas and chairs right with the characters, director Rosenberg’s staging is the very definition of intimate. The fact that the piece is presented in the very apartment that the characters are having their interactions gives the work a not unpleasant voyeuristic quality that’s actually quite engaging.
Wilfert and Abramovich are both impressively organic performers and their characters’ conversations come across like real talk, filled with oddball digressions and whackjob revelations. Wilfert’s non-stop, often crazed patter, with its almost tossed off descriptions of petty crimes and drug use, suggests a character with all sorts of mental and emotional issues – and yet he’s also oddly vulnerable and likable in the charismatic way that the cheerful guy off his meds, babbling on the bus might be. Abramovich’s reserved Adi is a more inscrutable figure, and Rosenberg’s text sometimes leaves the impression that her character exists just to be someone Dusty can bounce off of.
Ultimately, the show’s weakest aspect is Rosenberg’s script itself, which contains some dynamic passages and elements but often feels overlong and desirous of a second draft polish.
As the story unfolds, our underlying suspicion that there’s no real reason for the characters to remain in the room with each other increases to the point of being a distraction. In the end, though, if you are staging your plays in your living room, you certainly will be able to afford to take another pass at your show so you can move up to a bigger and better venue – the den, for example, or the guest bedroom.
Hella Fresh Theater, at a private apartment in Culver City. Thurs., Oct 17, 8 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Oct. 24. (323) 451-5918. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.