A review by Joshua Kahn.
Lily Nicksay-Kacie Rogers-
The desperation of homelessness is on stark, brutal display in Brimmer Street Theatre Company's world premiere production of Tira Palmquist's And Then They Fell, playing at the Atwater Village Theatre.
The play follows the intertwining narratives of two high school seniors who suddenly find themselves in broken homes: Jordan, who wakes up one morning to find herself in the care of Dwayne, her mother's manipulative boyfriend, and Cal, a feisty young transman who spends his nights with a group of thankless freegans. Jordan and Cal's goals are humble. Graduate high school. Scrape together enough money for the most basic of necessities. As their circumstances continue to beat them down, physically and figuratively, they begin to find in each other what little understanding and acceptance they can.
Tim Venable-Jaquita Ta'le)
If that sounds grim, it is. There's not much levity to be found. A kindly school janitor here, a wise-cracking waitress there...mostly, though, it's an unsparing look at life on the fringes of the fringes of society. In fact, what keeps And Then They Fell from becoming a wholly downbeat experience is the spirited nature of the two lead performers. Kacie Rogers is so wonderfully lived-in as Jordan that it can be easy to overlook how much heavy lifting she's doing. And Lily Nicksay as Cal gives an endlessly endearing, heartbreaking performance as a character who'd punch me in the nose for calling him "endlessly endearing." (It must be noted that
And Then They Fell is double-cast. Rogers and Nicksay perform in the Blackbirds cast).
Without strong actors in these roles, the play threatens to become a lesson in depression and message-giving.
And that message is pretty easy to figure out. It's right there in the oft-repeated, on-the-nose allegory that gives the play its title: hundreds of innocent birds mysteriously died and fell out of the sky, littering the town below. This story of the birds is brought up over and over again, from the first minutes of the play to the tragic ending moments. And though the birds provide us with a haunting final image, one is left wishing for a more nuancedtale. Even Dwayne's nefarious intentions are so heavily telegraphed that we're not left as blindsided by his vicious actions as we should be.
(Right: Lily Nicksay-Kacie Rogers
Left: Sollenberger-Chelsea Boyd)
Much more subtle is the striking direction and scenic design. Scenic and lighting designer Katrina Coulourides' sparse decoration of the wide, deep stage, paired with director Amy K. Harmon's crisp blocking, goes a long way to delicately evoke the loneliness and isolation of the characters. The young actors appear so small and fragile in the stage's significant negative space. Andy Broomell's black-and-white chalkboard-like projections further enhance the feeling that these character's lives are being constantly erased and redrawn. Far upstage, behind a scrim, is the interior of Jordan's trailer park home. It's rarely entered (and when it is, we quickly learn to associate it with danger). But it's always visible, an imperfect home, tantalizingly out of reach.
DATES: September 8 - October 2
Previews Thurs 9/8 at 8pm & Fri 9/9 at 8pm
Opens Saturday 9/10 at 8pm
Regular Thursday & Friday at 8pm; Saturday at 3pm & 8pm; Sunday at 3pm & 8pm
ADMISSION: Matinees - $25 Evenings - $30
[All proceeds will go to My Friend's Place, a homeless youth resource center in Hollywood.]
TICKET INFO: Reserve online at
or call (617) 953-8544.
LOCATION: The Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, 90039.