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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Snake in the Grass
It's even set in a crumbling old house with a deserted tennis court which plays an important part in the action, and a summerhouse with a well, designed with exquisite attention to detail down to the brick wall around the property by Laura Fiine Hawkes. The carefully shaded lighting by Leigh Allen is also an important part of the action. In fact, these elements are more active than the action.
Two sisters, Annabel (Pamela Salem) and Miriam (Claire Jacobs), are reunited after 35 years by the death of their autocratic father. He's left everything to Annabel who is greeted on her arrival from Tasmania by Nurse Alice Moody (Nicola Bertram), who tells her she has proof that Miriam murdered Dear Old Dad and will sell it for a mere $100,000.
As the sisters work out what to do, they tell stories about their past from Miriam's punishment by the abusive and controlling Dad to Annabel's marriage to an abusive husband. "We never got on, did we?" says fat sloppy Miriam to her svelte sister. Annabel despises Miriam and Miriam has always resented her abandonment. When Nurse Alice shows up for her blackmail payoff, Miriam plies her with drugged wine and drops her down the well. This gives Ayckbourne scope for his comic skills in an uproarious Act I curtain. Act II leads us through ghost stories in the dark to what we think is the predictable climax only to have Ayckbourne pull an O.Henry ending on us.
Director Mark Rosenblatt makes the monologue-intensive script gripping and the staging exciting. Claire Jacobs has the plum comic part and plumbs it from vulnerability to needy to something more ominous. Pamela Salem, brisk and attractive as Annabel, projects a woman who never had a chance or a tendency to empathize. Nicola Bertram plays a youthful and efficient nurse/blackmailer.
The high standards of this group make it a welcome addition to the LA theatre scene. They're doing the world premiere of an American play next which will be an interesting stretch,