Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Juan Pope as Malcolm Jennifer May/ Reel Sessions

Writer/Director David Wally’s examination of life in these United States is at once cynical and arcane. IN & OUT The USofAlienation currently playing Tuesdays at The Whitefire challenges the audience to ride along through a morass of notions that never become completely clear in the text nor in the action. In a series of at once associated and disparate scenes we encounter the ‘alienation’ which is the foundation of Wally’s work.

A program note mentions that the only character who remains consistent in the play is Malcolm, portrayed by an effective Juan Pope. Malcolm appears and stirs the social pot with various other characters by asking intimate questions that all come back to the absence of civility in the United States today. Some scenes work better than others. Two vignettes with Gregor Manns (Bartender and Rod) work well. One scene examines the origins of ‘us vs. them.’ Later as a homeless former security guard the feeling of quiet desperation and dignity prevail.
His portrayal of Rod, the former Security Guard, is touching and certainly civil. Manns is a really large guy who quips that one of the ladies in the latter scene might just take him home and turn him into a professional football player.

A mysterious Black Satchel seems to arrive and depart in each scene on its own. It draws attention to itself making us think that an actor may have missed a prop cue. In fact The Satchel belongs to Malcolm, the one consistent character in the sundry scenes. In the final scene we learn that he is, in fact, a research doctor for the CDC in Atlanta possibly bringing (in the satchel?) dark foreboding. His purpose in the piece may be designed to make the audience ask themselves difficult questions about the end of life.

Interstitial music (Don McLean’s American Pie plays as the audience enters the theater) may deliver clues as to the playwright’s intent vis a vis why our society has become so compartmentally uncivilized. Unfortunately, even with some decent performances and believable scenes, including a poignant but gratuitous lesbian tryst, the show lumbers along with only an occasional glimmer of the argument that each of us, indeed all of us must find a way to communicate and to be a little nicer to one another.

Laura Fine Hawkes’ bare bones set design leaves everything to the imagination. The stars and stripes hang above the stage: red tire treads and white handprints on a blue field. Nice. Uncredited over amped sound may have held clues as to the intent of the play, but became cacophonous in between scenes.

IN & OUT The USofAlienation
Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Runs Tuesdays only at 8PM
Closing September 14, 2010
Reservations: (866) 811-4111
$20.00 Top

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