D Deb Debbie Deborah
Reviewed by Julio Martinez
Theatre of NOTE
Through September 17
Two or more performers take on the same role multiple times in this enigmatic play by Jerry Lieblich.
Struggling New York artist Deb (Jennie Soo) is going through an unusual day. Her apartment has been robbed. The mother of her troubled boyfriend, Karl (initially Gregg Nussen) is in the hospital. Debbie makes tentative plans to have dinner with him later and visit his mother, but her plans need to be tentative because she begins working with famous artist Mark (initially Travis York) the following day and she doesn’t know yet how that will pan out.
Having its West Coast premiere after debuting in New York in 2015, D Deb Debbie Deborah could be engaging if this earnest ensemble picked up the pace a bit. But the play drags from the get-go, beginning with the initial scene between Nussen and Soo in which their dialogue takes place while Soo is onstage and Nussen off. (His character, Karl, is in the bedroom getting dressed for an engagement.) Nussen, his dialogue weighed down by deadly pauses, seems stuck in the mud, and his poor pacing sets an unfortunate pattern for everything which follows.
Director Doug Oliphant creates a number of environments from the small minimalist set, but its pieces are awkward to manipulate, causing the pace to further lag. Still, the action moves forward, as Deb is confronted with a series of other bewildering role exchanges, including one quick-tempo multiple switch between Mark and his assistant Julia (Alina Phelan). At one point Phelan takes over the role of Deb, doubling also as Veronica, a mysterious figure from Mark’s past.
The highlight of this play is an exhibition of Mark’s art wherein the seemingly entire pretentious art world — played by the five-member ensemble, including Soo — shows up. By play’s end, Deb has found her equilibrium, and is able to understand the perspective of her boyfriend Karl (now played by an older Travis York), as she stands with him by the bedside of his coma-stricken mother.
Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun, 7 p.m.; through Sept. 17. (323) 856-8611; or www.theatreofnote.com; Running time: 85 minutes with no intermission.