Monday, September 19, 2016


Alexandra Freeman, Jacqueline Wright,
Albert Dayan and Michael Sturgis
Photo by Darrett Sanders 
 (Click photo for full view)

Producer Chris Fields has been in LA for about twenty five years.  His Echo Theater Company takes chances and should be making headlines with the work that's being turned out in the multifaceted 99 seat venue in the Atwater Village Theater complex.  "Blueberry Toast" by Mary Laws has all the stuff of Beckett or dear Edward Albee or Arthur Kopit or Luigi Pirandello on acid.   To see four actors on a hot Sunday afternoon knock themselves out... literally.. to present Laws' World Premiere play was a revelation.  It is the revelation of the essence of communication and non-communication in a full length one act. It cuts to the quick with dark comedy and brutality that foments in the depths of all but the most saintly of us. It is an act of art.  

Laws in her interview discussing this play talks about how wrong 'season subscriptions' are.  She is an advocate for challenging the audience to confront the new stuff, the unfamiliar, the deep feelings that only rarely will a couple of hours on stage in a darkened space with living actors reveal.  The wonderfulness of our old friend, The Fantasticks, that I reviewed last week, of course, has a place.  Biff Rose (an old folkie whom I admire) has said, "Man does not live by bread alone.  You've gotta have a little toast!"

Toast!  The issue is communication and toast.  Pre show music over Amanda Knehans' cheery suburban kitchen set with requisite checker board floor, has no stove. It does have a green upright piano and a stack of games we might see an average family sit around the kitchen table to play.  The music is bright and shiny.  Bright lights..  we might be in the circus.  Director Dustin Wills is not messing around.  The action starts with over the top acting on acting that rocks the stage.  Walt (excellent Albert Dayan) sits at the kitchen table working on something to do with poetry.  Perkier than perky, Barb (amazing Jacqueline Wright) launches herself on stage to greet the new day and her husband with the offer to make him a breakfast of anything he'd like.  Anything at all.  Just name it.. Anything.   Walt and Barb banter back and forth. He announces that he'd like Blueberry Toast! Herein lies the rub:  the crux of many issues with those of us who want to please, who want harmony and, alas.. the barriers begin to rise.  
As the Blueberry Toast issue begins to bubble, we meet Jack: airborn,  musical and perplexed as he is the second best child, (Michael Sturgis) and his equally bouncy-suck-up-to-daddy sister Jill (Alexandra Freeman) who (they are adults playing children) roar in at inappropriate moments to announce that they are writing a play!  They scamper like eight year olds, invading the increasing tension in the kitchen.  

As the missed understanding about Blueberry Toast escalates, the children return after the presentation of their first act:  "The Dark and Humble Choice of Mankind" to periodically present Act II: "One Day I'll Die and No One will Cry," Act III: "Et Tu Brute" and the final act: "Soliloquy."

Laws' brilliant script is a tour de force for four actors with stamina and focus seldom seen.  How misunderstanding escalates to grand guignol  reminds of the late Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in spades.  The dedication of the actors to director Dustin Wills' excellent choices is alarming.   This is serious theatre that challenges the audience to examine the many faces of communication.   Ms Laws' potent play   deserves to be seen by the theatre community first and then, introduced to those who love important theatre. This is work that combines the words and the intensity of ensemble work that actors and directors can only wish for.   Frightening and prophetic, I cannot recommend this production highly enough.  
Blueberry Toast is a MUST SEE!... especially for true students of Theatre.     

by Mary Laws
Echo Theater Company
The Atwater Village Theater
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Thursdays through Mondays 
through October 24, 2016 
(Check schedule for omitted dates)
Tickets and Information:
310 307 3753

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