TORNADO - World Premiere at Actors Co-op Theatre Company

Reviewed by Amanda Callas  

The world premiere play Tornado by Chris Cragin-Day at the Actors Co-op Theatre Company is a superbly produced, thoughtful drama with a quiet, keen intelligence.

The detailed and powerful set design by Rich Rose and props work by Lori Berg set the mood the moment you enter the Crossley Theater. I've seldom seen an empty theater that conveys so much before the show even starts. With a mostly destroyed house and belongings and natural debris spread everywhere, the audience is instantly immersed in the devastation after a tornado. The wrap-around design of this theatre works particularly poignantly for this play, since there is no barrier between the audience and the stage, masterfully lit in ambers, blues and rubies by Derrick McDaniel. The sense of mood is palpable, and the sense of place is overwhelming and intimate. You feel like you are on the scene of the disaster yourself. The sound design by David B. Marling is profoundly haunting.

It is a true pleasure to see an insightful, subtle exploration of the culture clashes and polarization of the current climate, with wit, maturity, and sensitivity in the writing by playwright Cragin-Day. From the Oklahoma teacher who had her house destroyed in the tornado, to the cynical New York attorney and the bouncy evangelical Tennessee college student who both volunteer to come and help after the disaster, all three characters feel nuanced and real. The women are grounded in the writing and the notably excellent performances by Jody Carlson, Susie K. McLean, and Anna Salvini. Every performance truly shines. The moments of grounded, unexpected humor the actors create with their impeccable timing and realism are delicious. The direction of the play, by accomplished actress-director Linda Kerns, is assured, subtle, and full of humanity.

At the heart of Tornado are three women grappling with trauma, loss, and "acts of God" and trying to come to terms with the chaos and devastation left in the wake of a horrifying natural disaster in Oklahoma. They explore questions of faith, healing, and regional differences with sensitivity and subtlety. Wholly unexpected is the pleasure of their singing of hymns that is haunting and beautiful. In the end, although the play is too subtle to offer a spelled-out resolution, we leave with the image of these women learning that through acts of service to each other, they can discover some kind of connection, peace and closure.

Tornado runs April 21 - May 28; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:30pm, with additional Saturday matinees April 29 and May 13 at 2:30pm. Running time: 90 minutes; no intermission. Adults: $35, Seniors (60+) $30. Students w/ID: $25. Group rates available. Free lot parking. Tickets/Info: or (323) 462-8460. The Crossly Theater, 1760 N. Gower St., on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Hollywood CA 90028.

Posted By DH Magazine on April 24, 2023 07:23 pm | Permalink