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A CurtainUp Review

We hate everybody don't we?
--- exchange between Lula and Margaritah
Ana Kelly and Danette Sigut  in <i>Stuck</i>
Ana Kelly and Danette Sigut in Stuck
(Photo: Brooke Nevin)

The Meta Theatre's production of Jessica Goldberg's Stuck offers little to entice. As the title of the show aptly describes, we watch as two twenty-three year old women, Lula and Margaritah, struggle to make sense of their listless lives in Middletown, USA.

Margharitah has a baby, Olive, for whom she displays little warmth or even love. Lula puts up with an alocholic mother who alternately berates and ignores her, preferring a life of mindless television dating shows. Both girls have no idea as to how to escape their misery. Without any sense of hope or redemption, Stuck causes us to squirm in discomfort instead of drawning us in.

Both Margaritah (Danette Sigut) and Lula (Ana Kelley) try to seek comfort with older men. Margaritah's Jorge (Michael Traynor), a businessman from Argentina, fills her with hope and false promise, but eventually leaves her for "the next small town." Lula's older man, a father of one of her high school mates, wants nothing more than a young lover. The relationships offer little insight and leave us wondering what purpose they serve.

Terri Lynn Harris plays Lula's mother with a sarcastic flare. Her timing makes the scenes between herself and Lula among the most memorable in the play. Ana Kelley and Danette Sigut each have their moments -- a scene where the girls reminisce about their prom has enough emotional fodder to give both actresses a moment to shine. Sigut is hilarious as she has problems downing her beer while laughing, and Kelley has fun with pothead Lula's stoner monologue. Unfortunately, moments like this are scarce and the dialogue generally is so stilted that they seem to have trouble finding a rhythm and pace that works throughout. In addition, their anger is often expressed through yelling and comes off one note and Traynor's direction fails to help them find more levels to their emotion.

The play would have been far more compelling with more laughter and levity. Part of the problem with the production may have come from the fact that the scenes often last too long. Furthermore, Traynor could have hastened the transitions.

The problematic climax is the result not only of the unsympathetic characteris but also because Traynor's direction furthers our distance from Lula, as he blocks her looking down at the stage so that her long hair covers her face. Without facial expressions, a scene that should have had impact ends flat.

Playwrights who insert their characters into hopeless situations or create insurmountable problems need to imbue their subject matter with a new take on the issues or some dark humor to help us reflect on why we should be interested in such a nihilistic world view.

At the beginning of the play the girls are hard pressed to find a reason to keep living. They eventually narrow it down to children, hope, love and fear of death, but don't seem completely convinced and with neither o going through any real change it's hard to stomach their apathy toward the world.

Does growing up in Middletown, USA really justify the destructive actions that eventually take place? Should we condone the characters because of their small town surroundings, or condemn them for not taking charge of their lives and leaving? Unfortunately, Goldberg's purpose never becomes clear. Instead of having Margharitah and Lula find at least one item on the list to keep them going, most of the reasons gone and they are s more "stuck" than ever.

Playwright: Jessica Goldberg
Director: Michael Traynor
Cast: Ana Kelley, Danette Sigut, Michael Traynor, John Dalesandro, Terri Lynn Harris
Set Design: Sara Huddleston
Lighting Design: Max Pierson
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Dates: From January 13, 2006 to February 5, 2006.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7:00 pm.
The Meta Theatre, 7801 Melrose Avenue (entrance on Ogden), Hollywood, 90046.
Tickets: $15 for all performances.
Reviewed by Ariana Mufson on 1/15/06.

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