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Cost of Living - Theatre Review

By Bill Garry

Cost of Living at the Fountain Theatre
Katy Sullivan
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

Meet Eddie. He's a chatty, middle-aged Latino (played with a combination of neediness and bravado by Nuyorican actor Felix Solis) who just wants to be liked. He was incredibly lucky to meet and marry a fiery Russian woman. But there was an accident and, as he tells you, it wasn't his fault. He's out of money. He's angry. He's lonely. He's trying to cope.

Meet John. He's a rich, white, arrogant, wheelchair-bound young professor (played with authentic vulnerability and irritability by quadriplegic Tobias Forrest) who relies on paid help to bathe and prepare him for his classes. John hires an attractive Latina caregiver. But feelings are developing and, as he tells you, he's got to stay in control. He's angry. He's lonely. He's managing to cope.

Meet Ani. She's the fiery Russian (played by amputee Katy Sullivan with heart-breaking emotion) who married Eddie. She is living alone in an assisted living facility after a tragic accident left her paralyzed. Eddie offers his help but, as Ani tells you, she's doesn't want it. She is very angry. She is very lonely. She is struggling to cope.

Meet Jess. She's the Latina caregiver (Xochitl Romero in a powerfully fierce, yet intimate, performance) hired by John. After a rough start in life, she really needs the break that John is offering. But like the others, Jess is angry and lonely. When old emotions start bubbling, she cannot cope.

Cost of Living at the Fountain Theatre
Xochitl Romero and Tobias Forrest
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

How the lives of these four characters intertwine and become interdependent is the subject of Cost of Living, the Pulitzer-prize winning play now running at the Fountain. Playwright Martyna Majok plunges us into the world of people with physical disabilities, asking us to feel their feelings, meet their challenges, and dream their dreams. But the point is not to elicit sympathy from the audience; it is to ask us to look at our own, equally disabling, feelings and challenges.

Set in New York City, the writing captures the rhythms of the characters' ethnicities and social classes. As city dwellers ourselves, we've all seen these types and probably just walk by them. Cost of Living gives us the opportunity to pay attention; to look behind the physical -- be it disability, appearance or class -- to the person inside. The show embraces, and loves, differences.

The simple, bare set (a little too simple, I think) serves as multiple apartments. Fully built bathrooms are harrowing danger zones for both care-giver and receiver. The world outside is glimpsed through video monitors that serve as windows, which I found jarring and distracting. The actors made the characters real -- electronic devices did not make the weather real. More practical effects (as used in one snow scene) would have been welcome.

But let's keep these small complaints of mine in perspective. As you spend time with Eddie, John, Ani and Jess, you will see what really counts in life: someone to hold your hand while you grieve and hope and dream.

Cost of Living at the Fountain Theatre
Katy Sullivan and Felix Solis
Photo by Geoffrey Wade Photography

Cost of Living runs through Dec. 16, with performances on Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.; and Mondays at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $25-$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability). The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. Patrons are invited to relax before and after the show at the Fountain's indoor/outdoor café. For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to

Posted By Bill Garry on November 07, 2018 05:24 pm | Permalink