A review by Bill Garry
Montana Roesch, Fletcher Day, Alexandra Lemus
It's always a pleasure attending a show at the Stella Adler Academy. Classic shows with solid acting and skilled technical design - performed in front of enthusiastic young audiences - are the rule. And the currently-running "Den of Thieves" is no exception.
Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis is known for dramedies that shed light on the challenges and aspirations of the underclass. "Den of Thieve"s is one of his earliest works (2004), and in it you can hear his ear for the street that he later developed in such hits as "
The Motherf***** With the Hat," "
Our Lady of 121st Street," and his writing for NYPD Blue.
"Den of Thieves" brings together four losers struggling with personal addictions -- financial, relationship, and substance. Maggie, played with layered emotion by Alexandra Lemus, is sick and tired of being sick and tired. Paul, glibly portrayed by David Thor, wants to be Maggie's 12-step sponsor (in a fellowship of kleptomaniacs) but is in need of way more recovery himself. Flaco, played by Chris Petrovski with scary energy and great comic timing, is all Latino bravado, despite being non-Latino. And Boochie, played by standout Montana Roesch (more about her later), is Flaco's street-smart stripper girlfriend.
In Act 1, Flaco comes up with a "can't fail" plan to steal unprotected drug money. The action borders on farce as the group hilariously argues, rationalizes, manipulates, defends, and twists logic in order to justify giving up their personal recoveries for one big hit.
As you would expect, the "can't fail" plan does not go as expected. The group is caught by the mob that controls the money. And Act 2 becomes a touching (although just as funny) time of confession and self-discovery for our four friends and the mob boys that are holding them.
In that second act, Montana Roesch as Boochie brings a depth to her character that stands out among the ensemble. Proud of her accomplishments as a professional sex worker, she is also a woman of dreams and integrity.
(Left Photo) David Thor (Foreground),
Stan Harrington (Background)
Among the mob boys, Corey Michael Jantzen makes Sal, the trigger-happy "goomba," come alive with his spot-on physicality. Fletcher Day, as Little Tuna, and Stan Harrington, as Big Tuna, play their characters straight until they, too, get to reveal their inner lives as the play reaches its climax.
Director Alex Aves does a great job in building the first act to a crescendo, giving her actors free reign to push, play, argue, and dance around the simple set. The second act goes deep, and the action rightfully slows down as the characters, now in a threatening situation, turn introspective and confront their defects of personality. But the play's climax and resolution, a mixture of high emotion and high comedy, stays in low gear. I would have liked to see more of that first act energy, especially in Big and Little Tuna's performances, and especially since the show does deliver a happy ending for all.
"Den of Thieves" is playing at STELLA ADLER Studio C
6773 Hollywood Blvd. 2nd Floor
Hollywood, CA. 90028
May 8-31, 2015
Friday & Saturday 8:00PM
Right Photo:Alexandra Lemus, Chris Petrovski, Montana Roesch, David Thor.