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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

But we're guilty... We're just sitting around enjoying ourselves while the world goes to hell. We're not doing anything to fix it. - — Abigail
Jennifer Mudge and Nate Corddry. (Photo by Jeff Lorch)
There are some useless facts that everyone knows, like the fact that 90% of an iceberg lies below the water. There's a school of thought that this is indicative of human personalities—what you see of a person is only 10% of who they are. Unfortunately, that's not quite the case with the characters in the new play Icebergs, now playing at the Geffen in Los Angeles. While the characters occasionally lie to each other, by and large what you see is what you get.

  The story follows Calder (played charmingly by Nate Corddry), an up-and-coming filmmaker who lives in Silver Lake with his wife, Abigail (Jennifer Mudge). Abigail is an actress, and while she starred in Calder's last movie (a small indie film) and has gotten a few gigs here and there, she's not as successful as her husband. She's also prone to bouts of anxiety about the environment that send spinning off into overlong monologues about how the world as we know it is doomed because the icebergs are melting.

  The play takes place over the course of one day. Calder's college , Reed (Keith Powell) has come to visit for the weekend. Reed's got one daughter and another kid on the way, a sharp contrast to Calder and Abigail, who have been trying to have a baby, with little success.

Abigail isn't even sure she wants a child though her period is late, so she needs to figure that out very quickly. She's also dealing with her best friend, Molly (Rebecca Henderson)'s drama — though just g married her marriage is already on the rocks.

Calder's new movie is about a couple who tries to reach the North Pole, and he's worried Abigail is upset that she's not being considered for the leading role since Calder's agent, Nicky (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe), is chasing a big-name Hollywood actress to give it more commercial value.

  There's a lot going on here, and playwright Alena Smith deftly navigates her way in and out of each interaction. Though the play has no intermission, it's split pretty evenly into two large scenes. There's ssome sharp comedy too, and the characters speak in the vernacular of thirty-somethings in Los Angeles. Some of this is lost on the audience at the Geffen, which skews older than thirty-somethings, but most of the jokes still land well.

  While Smith's voice feels fresh, the play itself doesn't. Ultimately, it boils down to the often-told story of an aspiring writer who doesn't know whether to compromise artistic integrity for the sake of commercial success. Sure, there's plenty of anxiety about global warming thrown in there, but it doesn't jibe with the tone of the rest of the show, which reduces its efficacy.

  Part of this is due to circumstances beyond the Geffen's control. The day after the first preview, it was announced that the actress who originally played the role of Abigail would be leaving the production, and Mudge would be replacing her. While Mudge is clearly a good actress, she doesn't seem to have quite nailed who Abigail is yet.

  Under Randall Arney's direction the pacing of the show seems a bit off at the beginning, with early dialogue and jokes between Calder and Keith not quite landing at the right moments. Things pick up as the play progresses, and Arney seems to hit his stride once all five characters are onstage together.

  The technical rlrmrnyd are all exemplary, as is the norm at the Geffen. Daniel Ionazzi's lighting design is particularly noteworthy, shifting scenic designer Anthony T. Fanning's idyllic Silver Lake Craftsman from day to night with remarkable attention to the feeling of California sunlight.

  All in all, Icebergs  brings an interesting new voice to the theater scene. Unfortunately, it fails to elevate itself into something special.


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Icebergs by Alena Smith
Directed by Randall Arney
Cast: Nate Corddry (Calder), Jennifer Mudge (Abigail), Keith Powell (Reed), Rebecca Henderson (Molly), Lucas Near-Verbrugghe (Nicky)
Set Design: Anthony T. Fanning
Costume Design: David Kay Mickelson
Lighting Design: Daniel Ionazzi
Composer & Sound Design: Richard Woodbury
Stage Manager: Young Ji
Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)
From 11/8/16; opening 11/16/16; closing 12/18/16
Reviewed by Katie Buenneke at Nov 18 performance

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