The Super Variety Match Bonus Round!
Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Rogue Machine/Met Theatre
Extended January 7 – January 22
Ernest and Margaret Eagleton (Mark L. Taylor, Bonnie Bailey-Reed), are small town Texas folks whose nondescript lives are transformed by a visitor, in this lively comedy by Deb Hiett.
The comfortable home they share isn’t a happy one. Ever since the suicide of their mentally ill son, Margaret has developed a debilitating case of narcolepsy. She’s propped herself up in a recliner to watch television day in and day out, and has seemingly lost all interest in living. Meanwhile, Ernest has assumed the roles of caretaker and maid, while tending to her assorted quirks and needs. Margaret — part sweet downhome gal, part Archie Bunker — fosters some harsh attitudes about non-English-speaking citizens, immigrants and “others” who upend her limited world view. In one of many humorous moments, she coldly ignores the well-intentioned conversational overtures of her Latina postman (Paula Christensen).
Things take an unexpected turn when a music festival comes to town, and Ernest decides to rent out their son’s old room to an out-of-town visitor, who couldn’t be more to Margaret’s disliking. Sporting a chiseled Mohawk hairstyle and jeans, and exhibiting a genuinely baffling, androgynous mien, Chrz (Victoria Ortiz) arrives with a burst of energy and non-stop chatter. And while Ernest is uneasily polite and welcoming, Margaret treats their guest with frigid contempt, frequently referring to Chrz as “it,” and eyeballing her like an exotic animal at a zoo. (“I can’t tell if you’re a boy or a girl,” she says at one point.)
The dialogue is clever, and Hiett mines this odd tripartite gathering for some hardy laughs. But the real humor starts when Chrz decides to share some of her pharmaceutical wares with her unwitting hosts, and they suddenly find themselves in an outlandishly bizarre game show world of the 70’s that — hosted by Ortiz and Paula Christensen — ultimately has a surprising impact on their strained lives.
The performances here can be readily enjoyed for their manic in-your-face quality. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s living room set craftily morphs into a game show studio. Cameron Watson fuses it all together with capable direction.
Rogue Machine at the Met), 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles., Sat,-Mon., 8:30 p.m., Sun., 3 p.m., Extended January 7 thru January 22; (855) 585-5185 or www.roguemachinetheatre.com. Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.