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LA Theater Review

Adeline's Play

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Like the characters in Kit Steinkellner's play about putting on a play, someone was too kind to the theatermakers. That kindness results in a self-contented serenity onstage that keeps the play from its full potential—whatever that potential is. The improbable happy ending quashes any thought that the play is social commentary. The only slightly heightened style diminishes chances that this is a 1930s screwball comedy.

Apparently no one, particularly director Amanda Glaze, wanted to tell the real-life actors that they must speak up to be heard, that they should not peek at the audience, that people in the 1930s articulated to be understood, that specificity is more compelling than general characterization, that it's fine to take time during rehearsals to develop emotional responses but that an audience can't wait around for dialogue.

Each character narrates a portion of the play; if you insist action be shown and not told, this play will frustrate you. Adeline (Coco Kleppinger) left her Illinois town for a Hollywood career and has now returned, brimming with enthusiasm to put on a play. The nebbishy playwright (Isaac Wade) secretly loves Adeline. A town teen (Dina Percia) is annoyingly eager to join the cast. The town honcho (Ariel Goldberg), first bent on shutting down the production, quickly discovers his penchant for performing. An itinerant worker (Kyle Cadman) figuratively got his foot caught in the door when he met Adeline's bitter, overworked sister (Sarah Watson).

It's somewhat touching that the characters are asked to gather from 2 to 5 a.m. for rehearsals six days per week; after all, even amateur actors are swept into the compulsion to make art. But most of the characters hold demanding if not important day jobs that they must cling to in 1934; dressing, journeying to and from, and rehearsing pre-dawn would more likely lead to disaster than to any viable entertainment—for those actors or for their audience in presumably art-starved small-town Illinois.

During the real-life intermission, popcorn is supplied. Apparently no one wants to tell the audience not to eat during Act 2. Discipline and rules might not feel good at first, but as this production proves, they're essential in the theater.

Presented by the Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble at the Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 Second St., Santa Monica. Aug. 13Sept. 5. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m. www.latensemble.com.


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