Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
At twenty-seven and with the dubious benefit of an inheritance from her mother, Audrey has yet to conquer an unstable background and find a meaningful purpose in life. When we first meet her, she's living in Seattle and is not too thrilled to learn that her actor-boyfriend Cary wants her to join him and grab the ring on life's merry-go-round which means moving to Los Angeles so his career can take off before he hits the dreaded age thirty. Unlike Cary, Audrey has already experienced the downside of California as a college student, but given the state of her self esteem the idea that he wants her is as irresistible as the drugs she's apparently been using with some regularity. And so, on the basis of having always wanted someone to say "I bought two tickets to Los Angeles. I insist you come with me", scene one ends with Audrey buying into Cary's dream.
Naturally this would be a very short play if Audrey and Cary just went off into the California sunset and lived happily ever after. Instead of giving them their fresh start as "merry little immigrants" in La Di La land, Sheppard strands Audrey without Cary and sends her careening to the depths of a nightmarish rabbit hole for nine more scenes, each with a different person from her past or present. The finale brings her ironically full circle in a darkly ironic scene with another devoted boyfriend.
Except for Audrey (Katherine Waterston) the play's ten other characters appear just once, an expensive casting propostion only possible at a theater like the Flea with its talented acting interns or Bats, all of whom are extremely good looking. Also making repeat appearances is a cabaret like singer (Amelia Zirin-Brown). This between scenes connecting doppelganger and the on stage musicians were suggested by director Adam Rapp to echo Audrey's pain, yearnng and bursts of toughness. It's understandable that playwright Sheppard embraced Rapp's suggestion and ended up writing the lyrics for those between-scenes songs, for Audrey's musical shadow which adds flavor and originality to a basically familiar story of a culture rampant with ambition, drugs, exploitative sex and swimming pools. However, I can't really comment on Sheppard's lyrics since most of them tend to be hard to hear, a combination of Zirin-Brown's delivery and the music being played to loud.
Though Sheppard wrote Los Angeles before his fine 2003 play Buicks the large cast of actors, all except Audrey having just one scene, and the rather unrelentingly dark story in a much explored setting didn't exactly have producers falling all over themselves to take it on. It took the high profile Rapp's enthusiasm for the work of his friend from Julliard's playwriting program to give Los Angeles a life — and a small theater like the Flea to make it economically viable. While Katherine Waterston ) is undoubtedly the star of this enterprise, its ten scenes provide ten of the Flea's Bats with star turns which all handle with aplomb.
If Waterston's name sounds familiar, that's because her dad is Sam Waterston. His thespian offspring could do with some of dad's more understated way of showing emotions, though to be fair, Waterston Senior rarely has to navigate such vulnerability, not to mention being almost constantly high on something or other.
Ultimately, of the two Sheppard plays I've now seen, Buicks is the stronger and more original, one that works without clever directorial touches. At an hour and forty-five minutes, Los Angeles also seems to beg some cuts to bring it in at ninety minutes —either shortening some of the scenes or eliminating one or two characters. Still, to see this interesting collaboration between playwright and director and so many talented young actors on stage in an intimate little theater with just two rows of twenty seats each is a treat, not to mention, a bargain (tickets are just $18). Actually, with another new play, The Director, scheduled to play in repertory with this play (watch for a review by CurtainUp's Jenny Sandman), potentially a double bargain.
To read my review of Julian Sheppard's Buicks go here.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide