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This Side of Sweetwater

Reviewed by Lovell Estell III
Lightning Rod Theater at Asylum @ McCadden
Through June 24

These shorts by the late Tom Stanczyk are all themed around the romantic and sexual, and while they are quirky and somewhat irritating, they nevertheless offer a parcel of laughs and enjoyment. The final piece, “The Epilogue: Part,” written by Tony Foster, offers a funny onslaught of surprises.

In “8 Min,” a stage manager (Annelisha Dixon) and a lighting designer (Matthew Leddy) share an erotic encounter (or do they?). Directed by Amy French, this piece is distinctly thin and not very engaging.

“I’ve always wanted to write a Play, directed by Marisa O’Brien, showcases better writing and more humor, as petty distractions and lust constantly interrupt a couple’s (Keith Ewell, Cheryl Huggins), preparations to host a formal gathering.

The revelry of a newly married gay couple is at the center of “Gay Wedding,” directed by Katherine Barcsay. Mark and Michael (Darryl Armbruster, Brice Mitchell Williams), are both shit-faced drunk and savoring the memories of their recent wedding when the party is upended by a demanding Russian caterer (a very funny Anastasia Narinskiy) and an anxious homophobic husband and his loopy wife (Aaron Lyons, Marisa O’Brien). While not offering laughs galore, there are enough to make the piece enjoyable. 

The darkly funny “Close,” starts out with a meeting of strangers David (Bryan Bellomo) and Alma (Lauren Van Kurin) at a diner. He is gay and involved in a shaky relationship with Peter (Johnny Bell), while she is fresh off o a violent spat with her drunken abusive husband (Demetrius Hartman) The encounter gives rise to amusing surprises, poignancy and some crude homophobia as the evening drags on, yet it also speaks to the enduring, mystifying qualities of the human heart. Paul Hoan Zeidler directs.

Tony Foster’s “The Epilogue: Part” is a clever twist on the play-within-a-play scenario. Tonya (Tarah Pollock) and Tim (Brendan Farrell), are on their way out the door for a dinner with her parents when she decides the part in her hair is unbecoming. The resulting argument compels the duo to suddenly turn author, “rewrite” a portion of the play, and give it a satisfactory ending. It’s riotously funny, with fine performances under Shaina Rosenthal’s direction.

 

McCadden Place Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Pl., Los Angeles; http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4370; through June 24. Running time: one hour without an intermission.

 

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