ELECTROPUSS

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Photo Source: Paramount Pictures

Trista Baldwin's provocative new play is about the energy company with the big E logo. I refer, of course, to Electricland Electric Company, the Largest Electric Company on the planet, where the battle cry is Amer-I-Can, where employees trade big paydays for Monday donut feeds and casual Fridays, where upper management screws you both ways, where you can rest assured that "if Electricland goes down, it takes you with it" because you are "all one family." Appropriately subtitled "a comedy/nightmare," the play's wild, cartoonish wit is anchored by sinister undercurrents, characters who murmur the horrific details of their lives between company cheers and chase scenes.

Director Paula Goldberg and her ensemble strike a perfect balance between the comedy and the nightmare. The title character begins as Muffy Jonesmith (a wacky, versatile Jessica Makinson), sweet young graduate of Zap High who lands the dream job of Electricland receptionist only to be electrocuted and left for dead by a jealous associate. After a fall down Electricland's incinerator chute, Muffy is reborn as ElectroPuss, a half-cat/half-woman, who speaks in the style of tragic Shakespearean heroines—or beat poets (Baldwin has great fun mixing genres). ElectroPuss joins the other mutant spawn of the toxic corporation, Electric Lucy (Katy Selverstone) and Tumor Tom (David Grammer), who are tour guide and janitor by day, saboteurs by night. The trio manages to take down the company and its evil vice president, if only temporarily.

The journey from here to there is packed with comic, poignantly bent characters—each perfectly cast in this production—and menacing details delivered with a grin. Selverstone gives an intriguing performance as the scantily clad tour guide whose high voltage touch has left her physically estranged. Tim Wright plays Muffy's beau, a clerk and annelid enthusiast alarmed by the upward worm migration at Electricland. Diabolical vice president Bob Mickey (Jim Anzide) seems to be daddy or lover to all his receptionists. He marries Muffy's helpless, half-blind mom (the brilliantly fragile Nedra Gallegos) and takes to chasing her around the kitchen table as well as the desk. But he pays no such attention to lonely, borderline-psychotic Shelly Ann (a hilarious Ally Wolfe), the daughter/receptionist who goes to terrible extremes to win his affection.

The team of Michael Allen (set), Sabrina Benson and Mara West (costumes), and Michael E.R. Habicht and Eran James (lighting) has excellently assembled the look of the production, a maniacally detailed mix of bright corporate cartoon, dowdy reality, and cold electrical works. (A portion of the proceeds benefits The Crooked E.Com Family Fund to help former Enron employees who were laid off due to the bankruptcy.)

"ElectroPuss," presented by Circle X Theatre Co. at the Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 & 7 p.m. Feb. 22-Mar. 30. $15. (323) 461-6069.