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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
By Laura Hitchcock
Molly's Delicious, Craig Wright's play about a 1965 triangle, is an unpretentious and engaging comedy that's given an excellent production by The Group at Strasberg. That said, it's surprising that such an innocuous play has been chosen as the inaugural production of a group with such an illustrious pedigree.
This new in-house production company is dedicated to producing new plays under the leadership of David Lee Strasberg, CEO of the bi-coastal facilities founded by his father, Lee Strasberg. The play's title refers to an apple christened by a man in love with a girl named Molly and its symbolism is twofold: the tart deliciousness of love and the abundance that a bewildered citizenry melds with the space program in 1965.
The play is set in tiny Pine City, Minnesota, in a year when the generation gap between Mr. and Mrs. Lindy (John Apicella and Maryedith Burrell) and their niece Alison (Christy Keefe) and her suitors widens irrevocably. Alison is pregnant by Coast Guardsman Jerry (Jeremy Kent Jackson) but falls in love with the town mortician Alec (Scott Venters). We get Jerry's sanguine viewpoint that the Vietnam War will be over in three months and the aversion to a mortician's work that is typical of small town prejudice.
"Death is a part of life," Alec tries to tell Alison to which she retorts, "When life stops, death begins."
Wright has written such fully rounded characters in Alec and Jerry that their competition is conflict in itself and the two actors fill their shoes very well. Their eras are contrasted musically. Midway in each act the lights go down and each hero makes a dazzling entrance bursting into song: Jerry in Act I with Mario Lanza's signature ballad "Be My Love"and Alec in Act II with guitar and "The Times They Are A-Changin."
"Cindy wants me to have the tired old dream she's stuck with," says Alison of her officious aunt's bickering relationship with her husband Lindy. Lindy's sly pleasure in scoring off Cindy's dreams of enjoying her empty nest by painting and starting a crafts shop lend a sardonic undertone of sub-Americana to the play's bucolic setting. Apicella and Burrell don't lose sight of this but their warmth brings vibrancy to a couple who have come to terms with who they are. Alison declares that the older generation has "screwed up everything anyway" as she creates a new lifestyle that will accommodate her icnoclastic dream.
The naivete of the younger generation seems over the top, as when Alison whines to Jerry that she doesn't understand why he has to go to war. When Alec is miraculously offered the rental of his dream farm the play feels schematic. Yet, Wright uses both events to make his final point and also to leave Jerry as the most realistic of the three characters.
Dan Fields, who earlier this season directed the revival of Arthur Miller's first play The Man Who Had All The Luck (Our Review) has helmed this production with a clear sense of its values, an appreciation of its humor and a total lack of condescension. Craig Seibels' set of a rural front porch with swing around which apple trees curve makes excellent use of the theatre's tiny stage, highlighted by Chris Wojcieszyn's lighting design. The play's new era theme reflects the optimism of this new young troupe whose upcoming roster of three plays and three workshops promises more depth and daring.