Ronnie Marmo directs Sam Henry Kass's
A FLOCK OF MACAWS: A World Premiere
Theatre 68 has taken over the space warmed up for years by Deaf West and then by Antaeus Theatre Company (now holding forth on Broadway in Glendale) and the result contiues to be exciting and innovative theatre.
Cast (L-R): Deborah Geffner, Mercedes Manning and Julia Valentine Larson
What Sam Henry Kass has constructed in his 'full length' one act is a sort of Twilight Zone with self referential and topical asides with Mother (excellent Deborah Geffner) and Daughter (Mercedes Manning) and Actress (Julia Valentine Larson) and her wonky counterpart Actor (Hansford Prince).
What I love about storefront theatre is that it is, by nature, a mythical animal perhaps, a sort of chimera and then some. Los Angeles Times critic, Dan Sullivan, used the term "a few dollars and a book of Green Stamps" when referencing the ingenuity of how small theatre gets produced. Of course, no one knows what Green Stamps are these days.. but it is clear that ingenuity and passion are the keys to telling a great story. Making theatre on a shoe string (Macaws' simple set is not credited) presents a chain link fence and concrete park bench where all of the action takes place. Not cheap or cheesy, but precise and appropriate to the action of the play.
The few technical aspects of the show are simple and flawless. The premise: Daughter comes seeking her Mother, all the way from Idaho. Ms Manning is intense and determined, a bit over the top from the get go, but, after a threatened suicide, locks horns with slippery Ms Geffner who is wonderful in her deflection: rising to the character and at the same time exposing the actress inside who's in it for the lines. "I think I was promised another monologue later in the play.."
As Actress, Ms Larson simply wants to get her Equity card (if she knew what the AEA was doing to small theatre in Los Angeles, she might want to reconsider) and plays a handful of different characters with intentionally bad accents. She's most impressive as Daughter's date to the prom.
Actor, Mr. Prince, first appears in drag as surrogate for Mother (or is it Mother's Mother?) to play a scene with Actress to help figure out what happened to Mother early in life.. I think.
Kass's references to his life as a creative consultant/writer for Seinfeld (the TV series) and other current and topical references are inside jokes (I did not know that writer Carol Liefer did stand up!). His reference to Nat Bernstein was a shocker! The TV business is tough!
The beauty of "Macaws" is that the device of playing to the audience, the comic bombshells and the energy of these four actors is undeniable. It's off the wall.. almost sketch comedy, moving apace through scenes that attempt to find Daughter's daddy and to confirm that Mother is, in fact, her mother. A slower build might be an idea for director, Marmo, (whose very successful Lenny Bruce turn at his Theatre 68 will head to Off Broadway soon) to incorporate a steady build for Daughter and find crisper diction for Actor. The energy for Opening Night is always high which may account for this note.
This wonky tale may incorporate more topical bits as it goes along, which would be totally appropriate. The play invites us in and we feel included and welcome.
Support storefront theatre! Take a leap of faith!
A FLOCK OF MACAWS by Sam Henry Kass
5112 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood, CA. 91601.
Fridays and Saturdays 8:00PM
September 28 – October 20, 2018
Sundays at 3:00PM
(Sunday matinees on Oct. 7 and 14)
General admission $25.00.
Tickets and information www.Theatre68.com