Nevertheless, She Persisted
Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
The Echo Theater Company at Atwater Village Theatre
Through September 10
A workshop production whose aim is to showcase the talents of the Echo Theatre Company’s apprentice members, Nevertheless, She Persisted presents a mixed bag of one-acts that includes one dark ironic farce of considerable note and four other plays which vary in depth and craft.
The standout among the five is writer-director Mary Laws’s Yaju, a two-hander that unwinds as an edgy conversation between anxious mother Hope (guest performer Julie Dretzin) and her uncommunicative teenage daughter Ray (Maya Bowman). Hope initiates their dialogue after discovering that their cat has met a sudden bloody death under the wheels of a truck. Concerned for Ray’s psychological well-being, she urges her to talk about whatever grief she may be experiencing. But Ray responds to her queries with clipped answers, blank stares and a lack of affect that grows creepier the more her mother persists. Suspense mounts as the piece evolves into a clever example of the comedy horror genre. With crystal precision, Dretzin, a longtime veteran of the theater, portrays an “enlightened” parent who grows progressively more uncomfortable as her patient mothering comes up against a stony wall. And as the taciturn Ray, Bowman displays her own flair for spooky understated comedy by creating the perfect foil.
Charlotte Miller’s Sherry and Vince, directed by Tara Karsian, takes place in the visiting room of a prison where inmate Vince (Jose Corea) is serving time for an unspecified crime. His 18-year-old visitor Sherry (Jacqueline Besson) taunts him for reasons that become clear as the play progresses. Corea and Besson are convincing as two people from the same neighborhood who have a history; the play successfully showcases their abilities without itself having a resolution. Also, the two performers remain seated and facing each other throughout; this fits the circumstances of the plot, of course, but the problem for me is that, from where I was sitting, I never got to see much of Besson’s face.
Written by Jacqueline Wright and directed by Teagan Rose, Violet is a very short play that addresses the aftermath of sexual assault. Lindsay Graves-Fisher plays the distraught title character who insists the lights remain dim (making it difficult to read her expressions, actually), and Rachael Olsem depicts her friend Lea who tries to help her. It’s a scenario that holds promise for development. In At Dawn, by playwright Calamity West and directed by Ahmed Best, a redneck sheriff (Joey Stromberg) and his even dumber deputy (Landon Mirisciotti) harass a sometime hooker (Kaiti O’Conner). The play depicts the ugly misogyny and vicious abuse of power that so often takes place between representatives of the law and citizens, but the dialogue and characters are boiler plate, and the performers need to delve deeper to avoid cliché.
Writer/director Sharon Yablon’s Do You See? is set in early 1980s San Francisco and portrays the interaction among a group of 20-somethings attending a dull party. The partygoers variously express bitchiness (Erin Scerback as Wendy), a superior attitude (Alex Wagner as Dave), tremendous insecurity (Amanda Wagner as Angela), and a kind of bewildered vacancy (Ellen Neary as Dana). The conversation touches on the recent murder of a young woman, and the play comes to life with the appearance of guest performer (like Dretzin, another veteran) Susan Louise O’Connor as the mother of the murdered woman. The intensely watchable O’Connor demonstrates how a performer with dynamic stage presence can invigorate a murky story line. And Neary also succeeds by imbuing her vaguely troubled Dana with authenticity.
Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Atwater; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; through Sept. 10. (310) 307-3753 or http:// EchoTheaterCompany.com. Running time: two hours and 15 minutes with intermission.