Stage Raw Los Angeles Theater Reviews
Reviewed by Pauline Adamek
Through March 25
Robert Lawrence Nelson’s melodrama about two lonely people finding a connection disappoints on almost all fronts. While the performances from the two leads — Julie Dolan as Samantha and Chad Addison as Toby — are solid, with both actors plumbing some complicated emotional depths, the production as a whole fails to ignite. That’s because its sodden storyline lands like a wet blanket.
The wife of a wealthy Hollywood producer, Samantha lives a melancholy and reclusive life in a glamorous beach front Malibu house. She and her husband have fallen on hard times — both emotionally and financially. Unbeknownst to her often absent spouse Albert (Joe Dalo), Samantha occupies her afternoons and evenings working as a phone sex operator to bring in a bit of income (income she apparently has never had to explain to her partner).
Toby’s circumstances are vastly different. Also a recluse (for reasons that are revealed halfway through the one-act drama), Toby, a welfare recipient, holes up in his pokey, cheaply furnished room trying to write a book. He suffers frequent intrusions from his dopey mother Betty (Perry Smith) at whom he screams abuse — exhorting her to respect his privacy, a demand she blithely ignores. To pass his time, he dials a phone sex line and one day he connects with Samantha. An intimate friendship forms that crosses the boundaries of client/sex worker.
These two characters spend the entire play chatting on the phone, and here’s where Danny Cistone’s scenic design really serves well this most static of melodramas. We see two discrete bedrooms; Samantha is on stage left and Toby is on stage right. By splitting the stage area down the center, and placing their beds side by side, a nice symmetry is achieved.
But Nelson’s drama plays out like a series of tragic tales, designed to tug at our heartstrings. Despite a hopeful note of grace by the play’s conclusion, Connect just depresses.
Theatre 68 at NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; (No performance Saturday March 5th); Extended through March 25. (323) 960-5068 or www.plays411.com/connect; Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission.