Only one play to review this week, but it was a derelictic doozy!
So darkly funny, it’s difficult to summarize for you without giving away the plot… but I’ll try!
Rantoul and Die
HOLLYWOOD- A manically funny, outrageously crude, “trailer trash” treasure! The audience roared with laughter repeatedly, while covering their mouths with shock, as the dysfunctional lives of four of society’s rejects explosively unfold. Written ingeniously by Mark Roberts (co-writer and Executive Producer of TV’s “Two and a Half Men”), from some twisted corner of his psyche… this is an entertainingly quirky play! The program notes, quoted by the playwright, stated in part: “The moment I wrote “Fade Out, The End”… on this ugly baby I named “Rantoul and Die,” was the happiest day of my life. Squeezing out this hideous creature was like birthing an eighty pound snapping turtle that was wearing a spiked collar and a crown of thorns.” Did I like this show? Yes! Did I laugh my “sicko” head off? Yes! Do I recommend it? Absolutely… but only to the “hippest” and most open-minded theatre-goers. It is SICK with a capital “S,” and tacky beyond belief! On Opening Night, the razor-sharp, victoriously volatile direction of Erin Quigley kept both the excellent quartet of actors, and the “star studded” audience, at a feisty, frantic, and fun lovin’ fervor! (She must be terminally exhausted!) Taking place in a run-down house in the small town of Rantoul, Illinois (“cool” production design by David Harwell), inharmoniously inhabited by Rallis and Debbie, at the demise of their marriage… the insanity begins! As the play opens, Rallis has just unsuccessfully slit his wrists, and his long-time buddy Gary has him in a violent choke-hold, harshly berating him for his botched suicide attempt. Paul Dillon (Gary), as the edgy and surly macho monster, and Rich Hutchman (Rallis), as the heartbroken, cast aside husband, give dynamically diverse performances… both impressive throughout! Rallis’ sex-starved, beer-swilling wife Debbie (the Assistant Manager at the “Dairy Queen”), has demanded a divorce, and wants him out of her life and their house ASAP… and he is devastated! As the mouthy and unrelenting Debbie, Cynthia Ettinger is a simmering bundle of dynamite, conquering her role with great dimension. Nearly stealing the show in the second act, we meet the mousy spinster, Callie, Debbie’s co-worker at the “D.Q.” Living with her mother and 13 beloved cats, the lonely “Plain Jane” (and tackiest dresser on the planet), has a wee bit of a “thing” for Rallis… and a shocking secret to reveal. Lisa Rothschiller, as the dowdy old maid with a hidden raging libido, is screamingly funny and poignantly heart-touching, at the same time. Mary T. Quigley’s gloriously gawd awful costumes, Matt Richter’s sound design, and the raucous fight scene coordinating of Ned Mochel… add perfectly to the nuttiness of it all! Undeniably, this play spouts a ton of raunchy, violent, and off-color “O’migod” moments, but I, and the rest of the audience, had a great time! An evening of riotous guilty pleasure! No “prudes” should attend… but for everyone else, this is a well produced, wild ‘n’ wacky ride! Running through July 4th at The Lillian Theatre – 1076 Lillian Way in Hollywood. Call 323-960-4424
Ben Mingay – A Stand Out in “Dirty Dancing!” Remember His Name!
We caught this nostalgic and long-running musical at The Pantages last week. Had a ball! A huge and talented cast, spectacular set, great dancers, and long-loved hit songs delighted us from start to finish! Blown away by the powerful and soulful voice of this young Australian guy, in a smaller role… I predict, a star is born! This is his first time in California, and he is an exciting new face/voice on our local theatre scene… likely headed for major stardom! Welcome to L.A., “mate!”
Mark Your Calendar
Two promising, laugh-filled openings to cover this weekend, which I’ll tell you all about next week…
Nights of Noir – The Attic Theatre in Culver City
Two lighthearted one-act plays, “Marked For Love” and “Of Dicks and Dames,” written by Kasey Wilson. We follow the zany adventures of “Bolt,” a 1940’s private detective… into the underbelly of Los Angeles crime in the Golden Years. Hosted by Burlesque Goddess “Honey Ima Home,” this sounds like a hoot!
Over the River and Through the Woods
Written by Joe Pietro, this popular play opens at Group Rep in North Hollywood. A sweet Italian family comedy, involving a young man’s thirst for life and romance away from New Jersey… His grandparents want him to find a “nice girl” from the neighborhood, and so the delightful family struggle ensues…
See you next week… Try to stay “cool!”