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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
By Laura Hitchcock
Sorrell, the beautician, simple-minded and delusional, still lives at home with her mother Geraldine and waits for the return of her husband Parker, carefully keeping the seams straight in her 1940s-style hose. Ruth, a realtor, comes home to visit, dressed for success in her Manolo Blahnik stiletto shoes. Patty, mother of six, leaves them and her husband to come home to Mother, before taking off for an unknown new life.
Since its Sorrell's wedding anniversary, she's not surprised when Parker, the husband she hasn't seen in decades, shows up. Parker went to Hollywood to be a Western movie star, arriving just when the Western boom went bust. Patty's husband Jimmy, a Hispanic self-made businessman, also arrives, totally bewildered by his wife's abandonment of the big house, the stable of cars and the thrice-weekly housekeeper he's provided. His flash of violence and his materialistic priorities give the audience plenty of clues.
After a slow first act, the arrival of the men proves the catalyst that breaks open the inner lives of the sisters. Parker has not come home out of love. He's here to shatter Sorrell's illusions, as well as those of her sister Ruth, who declares he's the only man she's ever loved.
One marinates on the themes and point of this play by Young, who was an Academy Award-nominee for her screenplay Cross Creek. When three siblings' lives go astray, it's time to look at the nest from which they came. Peggy Lord Chilton is wonderful as the hearty gas-pumping Mother who shoots vultures and wildcats to keep them from her property and she seems kind in a weary offhand sort of way, as though she'd given up on the possibility of change long ago. It may be the have-em-and-leave-em-be neglect of this tough old buzzard that makes her daughters emotionally needy and dependent.
Sorrell's delusions serve her well in the long run. Ruth is used to being an aggressive take-charge executive and her choice of action is no surprise. Patty's story seems peripheral to the main action, except in the sense that all three sisters and their mother are women alone. If Parker and Jimmy are typical of their choices, it's understandable. There's a theme that's undeveloped.
Christina Hart presents some interesting facets of Sorrell. She can pair a stoop-shouldered shuffle with a furious squint that projects the nutty rage just below the skin of the smiley-faced beautician. Joe Stevens was born for those Gary Cooper roles and, though he realizes now he'll never be Clint Eastwood, he's long and lean and looks the part. Stevens ranges from easy-goin' cowboy charm to the steaming rage of a man who has lived off looks that are failing him. Nicki Callahan plays Ruth as a sleek, sexy executive whose beauty and brains haven't gotten her anything but dissatisfaction.
Kara Pulcino brings a childlike vacancy to the thinly-written part of Patty that comes as close as anything can to making it work. Passion and vibrancy enter the stage with Manny Suarez in the part of Jimmy, who has everything his father dreamed of and finds it's not a dream come true.
Gary Richmond has created a realistic set design for the desert home/General Store/Beauty Parlor, though sometimes it's hard to tell where we are. The excellent cast and director Frank Doubleday bring the production to life but they can only do so much. There's a lot more to learn about these people, where they're coming from and where they're going. With Dalene Young's track record, ear for dialogue and knack for conflict, it should be a hot trip.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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