I have seen practically every one of Justin Tanner's plays including "Pot Mom," "Teen Girl," "Wife Swappers," and "Day Drinkers" just to name a few and I am a major fan. His plays are about the human condition...the saddness that lies beneath.
At the same time, Justin's work is also extremely funny, inspiring and just plan brilliant, and "El Nino," his first play in over five years, proves just that.
The story, which seems in some ways autobiographical is about a woman, Colleen (the amazing Maile Flanagan) a science fiction writer suffering from writer's block, who returns to her family home where she is obviously unwelcomed.
Besides writer's block, Colleen also suffers from several physical ailments which you spot as soon as she hobbles across the stage. Her walk alone will have you falling out of your seat laughing. Poor Collen, her boyfriend has kicked her out and she has no where to go. So to the dismay of her parents, June (Danielle Kennedy) and Harvey (Nick Ullett), and her sister, Andrea (Melissa Denton), Coleen plants herself on the couch and makes herself at home.
From here on, we meet a set of wonderfully strange characters, including neighbor, Kevin (Joe Keyes), who carries around his 17-year-old dying cat because he can't bear to put him down, even though it's obvious the kitty is barely alive and Todd (Jonathan Palmer) a veterinarian who specializes in euthanasia.
Todd is Andrea's new boyfriend and he doesn't seem to mind that she verbally abuses him every chance she gets. Of course Todd manages to give it right back, not to her, but to Colleen.
Throughout it all, you can't help but to root for Collen to get her act together and find happiness. In fact you feel the same about all of Justin's characters. They may be flawed but they are definitely endearing. "El Nino," directed perfectly by Lisa James, is a must-see for anyone who has a family, likes to laugh, appreciates great writing or just wants to watch a six actors do some very fine work.
"El Nino" is Rogue Machine's
world premiere show running through April 2 at the MET Theatre.