Open House Sells Dreams

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Photo by Ed Krieger

From l, Eve Gordon and Robert Cicchini in “Open House.”

Featuring story elements ripped from the headlines, Shem Bitterman’s play Open House deals with the existential crises of its’ leading characters, both looking for some kind of direction in their lives. Excellent production work and moving acting help sell this real estate yarn and carry it over the occasionally predictable elements.

Forlorn real estate agent Chuck Baker (Robert Cicchini) attempts to sell a small bungalow during the holiday season, chasing after solid prospect Martha Tucker (Eve Gordon) and her possible interest in the home. During her walk-through, she mentions she’s worried that “something wrong” occurred in the house. Is the agent, or the house, hiding a secret from the past?

While the plot employs some elements of the real estate crisis and economic doldrums enveloping the country, the story focuses more on its two characters’ disconnect from family, friends, and reality.

Cicchini powerfully reveals the Willy Loman-ish despair of Baker through body language and searing eyes, a raw man attempting one last score. Gordon’s Martha is an open wound, tense, hurting, and lost. The last scene of the play finally brings her character into focus.

Steve Zuckerman’s fine staging captures the trapped lives and empty emotions of both characters, enhanced by creative design work. Jeff McLaughlin’s wonderful Craftsman set and spot-on lighting bring excellent shading to the story, enhanced by Chris Moscatiello’s sound design. Roger Bellon’s original music adds an eerie, questioning note.

Powerful acting and excellent production work reveal empty and desperate characters in Open House.

Open House plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through Sept. 22 at the Skylight Theatre Complex located at 1816 ½ Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles. Tickets cost $29-$34. To make reservations, call (702) 582-8587, or visit skylighttheatrecompany.com.

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