at Eclectic Company Theatre
It all feels a lot like a family affair, or rather a production mounted by a close-knit company—not unlike a family in good and bad ways—which aims to support its artists and give them a safe place to grow. That's not a bad thing, particularly when one of the artists is a promising playwright. Personally, one might wish the safety of this kind of environment might have pushed the writer to go outside of his comfort zone.
Kerr Seth Lordygan teamed up Laura Lee Bahr and other Eclectic Company members to mount a full evening of one-acts; the most successful pieces tap into Lordygan's edgy ability to find humor in dark, very human places. The show's opener, Two Jews and a Ham, seems content to settle for gentle, predictable laughs, but they are genuine. Joel Rieck directs Marc Segal and Jody Fasanella as a loving Orthodox couple who find themselves alone with a freshly baked ham—a gift from their unconscious, overly friendly neighbor (Aurora Nibley).
Lordygan's The List ventures further into the investigation of rules: making them and sticking to them, no matter what the cost. But although the actors in this contemporary couples' dramedy are appealing—particularly Kevin Blake and Rachel Castillo and the object of his, er, lust—neither the playwright nor director Kevin Fabian manages to connect us to the nasty, emotional truth at the bottom of a rich and interesting premise.
The Hit, however, contains beautiful writing and, guided by director Julie Bermel, several wonderful performances. Blake and a mesmerizing Jason Britt flesh out a complex, immediate relationship that showcases the playwright's ability to be funny and bleak at the same time, and Rebecca Lane is the perfect icing on the unexpected cake. Even if the play is a bit long and the staging a bit sloppy, all hits home—unlike the evening's final offering, Deceaseport. Heather Holloway directs an ensemble cast in this futuristic vision of a sci-fi afterlife, which may be the writer's attempt to take chances. Instead, opting for stylistic form over truly dangerous content devolves into a confusing message, which misses its mark. Final mention to Marco Deleon's nicely versatile setting, effective lighting by Rebecca Bonebrake, and Jeff Folschinsky's snappy sound design, which go a long way to tie the evening together. Because that's what company members do, right?
Presented by and at the Eclectic Company Theatre, 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Jan. 11-Feb. 10. (818) 508-3003. www.eclecticcompanytheatre.org.
Reviewed by Jennie Webb