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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Book of Liz
By Ariana Mufson
Sister Donderstock (or, as she likes to be called, Liz) lives in Clusterhaven, a community of the "Squeamish." The village relies on selling Liz's cheese balls (traditional and smoky) for income, securing Liz her place as cheese ball wizard. But when Brother Nathaniel Brightbee (Jeff Witzke) moves to Clusterhaven he shakes things up, suggesting that men take their place in the kitchen and learn the art of cheese ball making-forcing Liz out. Reverend Tollhouse (Mike Genovese) demands that Liz share her recipe and Liz begins to wonder if Clusterhaven is really the place for her. She sets off into the real world to find out.
Along the way she meets, among others, a dancing peanut on the side of the road, two friendly Ukrainians, gay waiters, and various alcoholics trying to stay sober. Liz embraces all and gives up many of her Squeamish ways, keeping her identity a secret. Ultimately, she ends up back in Clusterhaven. It's a fable that doesn't preach but subtly comments on change vs. tradition and technology vs. faith. The premise is simple enough, but the native Sedaris packs in the humor along with the subtle social commentary.
Some of the play's funniest scenes turn up when Liz takes a job at the "Plymouth Crock" family restaurant, with standout Tom Lenk playing off Magnuson perfectly, as her gay manager. Turns out the Crock is home to many patrons and staff who are trying to get through AA and sober up. Liz being no stranger to spouting maxims turns into a true proponent of the 12 step program, to hilarious effect.
Magnuson has ample opportunity to shine as she carries the show, though occasionally her understated performance doesn't quite mesh with some of the more over-the-top characters. Though her timing is impeccable, it's hard not to picture Amy Sedaris in the role. Johanna McKay, as Oxana the Ukrainian immigrant, and Mike Genovese, as Reverend Tollhouse, have their moments, but both could have been stand outs instead of just very good.
Luckily, "very good" is still strong enough to carry the show. Sedaris f ans will be pleased at this witty and clever play, and as long as the cast keeps their energy going who knows-the run could be extended even further (it was scheduled to close June 6, but brisk ticket sales have led to an extension through the 26th).
Editor's Note: Here's a link to our review of the show when Amy Sedaris appeared in it -- The Book Of Liz-- Off-Off-Broadway.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
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Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
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6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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