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Blueberry Toast - Theatre Review






Michael Sturgis. Jacqueline Wright, Alexandra Freeman and Albert Dayan
Photos by Darrett Sanders
The Echo Theater Company -- Los Angeles' "Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays" (L.A. Weekly) -- has come through again. " Blueberry Toast" is their world premiere of an absurd satire from playwright Mary Laws, a Texas-bred TV writer ("Preacher") who knows which rocks to lift to shed light on the disturbed in suburbia.

The bright, eat-in kitchen of an Anytown, USA family is the setting for a breakfast spat between numbed-out wife Barb and passive-aggressive husband Walt. They have built a life that, on the surface, is very polished and inviting. Their  refrigerator is well-stocked with healthy foods; their children (Jack and Jill) are precocious and playful; and their neighbors are, well, neighborly. But polite breakfast chit-chat turns awfully dark, awfully fast, and we learn that this all-American family lives a life that is more 1950's Tom and Jerry cartoon than 1950's family sitcom.

Jacqueline Wright is brilliant as the perky, yet numbed-out Barb. Her commitment to a role that is both physically and emotionally demanding is what lifts the play from cartoon to allegory.

Albert Dayan's portrayal of Walt is so real and heartfelt (especially moments with Jill "Jellybean," his daughter), that I had to remind myself that I was not back with one of my friends' crazy fathers in the community where I grew up.

The play is rated "R", so the intense cartoon violence and sexual action may not be for you. (You may also not want to sit in the front row "splash zone.")  But the play is structured for laughs -- mom and dad's escalating argument is interrupted four times by Jack and Jill's four act play, which provides comic relief and context.

The children are charming, natural and naive, which makes it all the more hilarious that they are played by adult actors.  

Michael Sturgis' Jack is an awkward prepubescent with a "why is this happening to me" wariness.  Even while Jack is absorbed in "play-acting" with (and ordering around) his younger sister, he knows more than he lets on.  

Alexandra Freeman as Jill is all giggly girl, providing contrast (and laughs) when dealing with her father's increasingly obvious health situation.

As befits the Echo Theater Company, a well-funded 99-seater running at the Atwater Village Theater, design and crafts are first rate.  Sound, music, costumes, lighting and special effects are timed right and contribute to the action.  Extra applause to the stage crew who have to reset the theater and do the laundry after each night's performance (they know what I mean.)

I would have liked to see a little more humanity in the first moments of the show.  Barb and Walt started off a little cliched to me, and a little humanity would have anchored me before the cartoon action started.  Also, the kitchen set -- brightly colored (like, yes, a cartoon!) with working water and electricity -- is missing a stove top, so I spent a bit of time wondering just how Barb was going to make those pancakes.

They would've been great.
Blueberry Toast - Ever wonder what evil lurks in the heart of suburbia? Every family has a dark underbelly - especially the perfect ones. Playwright Mary Laws puts the "dys" in family dysfunction with this modern-day, darkly comic revenge tragedy.

WHO:
• Written by Mary Laws
• Directed by Dustin Wills
• Starring Albert Dayan, Alexandra Freeman, Michael Sturgis and Jacqueline Wright
• Presented by The Echo Theater Company

WHEN:

• Thursday at 8 p.m.: Oct 6;  Oct. 13 ONLY
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 16 (preview); Sept. 23; Sept. 30; Oct. 7; Oct. 14; Oct. 21
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 17 (opening night); Sept. 24; Oct. 1; Oct. 7; Oct. 14; Oct. 21
• Sundays at 4 p.m.: Sept. 18; Sept. 25; Oct. 2; Oct. 8; Oct. 15; Oct. 22
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: Sept. 19; Sept. 26; Oct. 3; Oct. 24 (dark Oct. 10 and Oct. 17)

WHERE:
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039

HOW:
• Call 310-307-3753 or go to  www.EchoTheaterCompany.com
• Visit us on facebook: www.facebook.com/echotheater
• Follow us on twitter: @echotheater

TICKET PRICES:
General admission: $30

PARKING:
FREE in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater

OTHER:
Recommended for mature audiences: graphic language and violence
 



Posted By Bill Garry on September 24, 2016 01:59 pm | Permalink