Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Atwater Village Theatre
Through May 5
Writer/performer Terry Maratos’s solo show about an angry addled man and his struggles with his family is chockful of the broad caricature and shtick-laden narrative that I normally find grating. But Goonie is a rare exception. Under Jim Anzide’s direction, Maratos proves such an agile performer, so precise in his transitions and physically dexterous in his depictions (he plays 10 characters in all), that he completely won me over.
The main character, Terry, is a loving but troubled Dad to a little girl, whom he calls Goonie (not her real name, he tells us) who is celebrating her sixth birthday. Terry has gone all out to put on a party for her, even as he plans, at the end of the day, to take off for places unknown, leaving her in the care of his girlfriend, her mother.
Besides organizing the food, the favors, a magician, and a plane spelling out her name in the sky, Terry has invested time in keeping certain members of the family away from the party, particularly his mom and dad, each manipulative in their own bizarre way. Terry’s mom projects a peculiar “un-mom” persona; her body is gnarled, her expression sly, and she speaks with the raspy voice of an aging Mafia don. His dad is another strangely unglued sort; while Terry is elsewhere he sends the magician home and ditches the pizza that was to be served in favor of his own lentils and rice (Later, one kid gets sick on the food, effectively pooping the party).
All the characters are weird except for Goonie, who is not only a nice child but perceptive when it comes to her unstable parent. Whenever “Terry” starts going off the deep end, she chills him out; the performer’s swift changeovers, from manic father to trusting daughter, are impressively adept.
Designer Amanda Knehans’ uncomplicated set is made up of three frames from which dangle assorted toys and objects that include prescription bottles in various shapes and sizes — a component, perhaps, of the emotional chaos we view on stage.
Tim Labor’s striking sound design, along with Dan Weingarten’s lighting, creates an effective ambiance for a rambling narrative that culminates, surprisingly, in a satisfying ending.
Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Atwater; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through May 5; www.goonietheplay.com or (323) 839-5086. Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission.