When I received the invitation to this show, I imagined a leech in high heels and big hair. In fact parasite drag is an aeronautical term that has to do with anything on an aircraft that doesn’t contribute to lift. How this relates to the troubled story of Gene Brown, a weak man with a strong Christian faith (Robert Foster) and his invasive brother, Ronnie (intense Boyd Kestner) from whom he’s been estranged for years, and the bonding … in a way of Ronnie’s wife, Susie (lithe Agatha Nowicki) with Gene’s spouse, Joellen (Mim Drew), is at best obscure.
Written by Mark Roberts and well directed by David Fofi, the acting makes more of the text than the play itself delivers. In the first act we encounter Gene and Joellen attempting to resolve a situation that has left Gene with a black eye and Joellen rationalizing how she inflicted it. The Elephant Theatre Company’s program features a woman running, it appears, toward a funnel cloud with the text “Past is Prelude’ included in the image. References are made to storm warnings as the play advances and it seems that there’s no end to the troubles about to erupt within this anxious family.
Gene and Ronnie’s sister is a victim. Currently, in the hospital after years of drug abuse and living on the streets, Ronnie appears with Suzie, his equally tough and unsophisticated wife to begin to stir old passions. Ronnie does not share Gene’s devotion to the Lord. Resolution for past issues is on the table, but the ability to do something about them is, at best, difficult.
My first impression of the first act brought the cynical notion that Parasite Drag was Virginia Woolf meets Mama’s Family. Roberts was executive producer on Two and a Half Men and is currently producing another sitcom for CBS. The feeling of television pacing is not necessarily a bad thing, but it seemed evident. It’s not until the second act, though some gratuitous sex at the close of Act One brought a chuckle from the audience, that exposition lets us know the terrible things that the Brown kids have had to endure. How one went to Christ and the other to the Devil is revealed. The essence of the last scenes between Joellen and Susie and then an angry encounter between the brothers parallels the impending storm. These powerful scenes may be worth the effort of enduring the first act. Playwright Roberts is not an Albee, but the energy Fofi draws from his actors in the final scenes is powerful and revealing. Interpretation of the final moments of the play is up for speculation, as eight millimeter home movies unspool and everything goes dark.
PARASITE DRAG by Mark Roberts
6322 Santa Monica Boulevard (just west of Vine)
Thurs – Sat at 8PM
Thru September 18, 2010
Call (213) 614-0556, or reserve online: www.elephanttheatrecompany.com