Ionesco and Astroturf--what a happy thing. In mounting two of Eugène Ionesco's lesser-known (and pre-Rhinoceros) works, Zoo District's Kristi Webber and a top-notch cast have given an old absurdist a new, decidedly retro infusion of hipster chic and manic energy. And they've created one swell piece of consistently high style. Yet too much of the time, the oh-so-fabulous concept, in its oh-so-skilled execution, bogs down the deceptively simple material.
Both The Submission and The Future Is in Eggs are, if you will, humorous domestic dramas--or, rather, cozy domestic riffs on societal roles and family relationships and the anger and hypocrisy seething underneath the playground of the master race. It's fun stuff, especially as it includes layer of language absolution/exploitation/ investigation. At the center of it is errant son Jack (Joe Fria), who just doesn't want to join in the game. But Jack has a very persuasive family: a martyr mother (Shirley Anderson, dangerously aproned), toe-the-line dad (Kelly Van Kirk), guilt-inducing grandparents (Bill McCormack and Carol Katz, both dearly horrifying), and manipulative little sister (powerhouse Ryan Templeton). When the sullen Jack eventually submits, he finds himself facing a new opponent in the female form of Roberta (Allyson Kulavis), along with her family (Stacey Jack Russo and Frank Stasio).
Under Webber's finely tuned direction, the performers carry out her stylish TV-dinner vision and often make it even tastier-particularly the insanely focused Templeton, as well as Fria and Kulavis, who are strong and funny and true and sweet and touching and absolutely consumable. Their unique courtship of unveiled stories and secrets is everything it ought to be. At the start of the performance, audiences are gracefully welcomed into the mise en scène by an appealing Kevin Dulude as emcee. Webber and producer Cody Nickell-with designers Stephen Legawiec (sets), Bosco Flanagan (lights), Ronda Dynice Brooks (costumes), Joe Seely (prosthetics), and Patricio Motta (sound)-have created a topsy-turvy Tomorrowland world well worth taking note of. If only the plays themselves weren't somewhat overwhelmed by it.
Presented by Zoo District at [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. Repertory schedule. Apr. 7-29. (323) 461-3673. www.zoodistrict.org.