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LA Theater Review

Underground Woman

Underground Woman
Photo Source: Jeff Robinson
Actor-playwright Victoria Thompson is brave—and not just because she performs the lead in her own play. Her character Delia Donovan is brilliant, embittered, and utterly self-absorbed, ready to both drink herself to death and dispose of her milquetoast husband Don (James Loren), her dimwitted addict son David (Chris Kerrigan), and her whiny, snotty daughter Rachel (Maeghan McConnell). When David marries a Columbian woman a decade his senior and Rachel's therapist (Maaren Edvard) runs an intervention to get Delia into rehab, we wonder whether the main character's will or her liver will give out first.

Thompson has overwritten this dark comedy, which has a 90-minute first act. Director Anita Khanzadian, who also plays Delia's mother, does not always keep up the pace, most noticeably when a dozen or so characters are simultaneously onstage. But all that aside, Thompson's verbal dexterity as a writer is most impressive. A sample of her lacerating wit is when David announces he will convert to Catholicism and Delia asks him what is involved. "I don't know. I think it's a class or something," David mumbles, to which his besotted and fed-up mother replies, "I hope you don't have to read." The cast across the board is very solid, and Thompson's occasional direct address works well—most especially when, near play's end, Delia venomously condemns modern societal apathy and stupidity with an edge that takes the audience's breath away.

Thompson has a grand time lampooning family dysfunction and therapeutic doublespeak. Edvard, playing the therapist, who attended the California College of Psychic Eclecticism, is just the right shade of smarmy. And there is a great satisfaction in the playwright not selling out our expectations with a feel-good ending. Her misanthropic lead character, which she plays to the hilt, is delightfully unafraid to use hilarious insults or even a gun brought over by a neighbor, to get everyone out of her life so that she can finally get on with the business at hand, drinking her way into a curiously and uniquely self-satisfied oblivion.

Presented by and at Theatre Unlimited Studios, 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood. Sept. 12-Oct. 18. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (818) 238-0501.

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