Friday, May 25, 2018


The Cult of Love by Leslye Headland

Graham Sibley, Tom Amandes, Keliher Walsh,
Christine Woods, Christian Durso, Sarah Utterback,
John Lavelle and Tina Huang
Photo by Dean Cechvala 

It's Christmas in Connecticut.
 Leslye Headland's  ten year project to examine the interchanges between members of the Dahl family culminate in the "Cult of Love." After dealing with six of the deadly sins in her The Seven Deadly Plays, we now conclude with "Pride." 

We meet the Dahl parents Bill and Ginny (Tom Amandes and Keliher Walsh) who, in observance of family tradition host their four grown children Mark (John Lavelle), Diana (Christine Woods), Evie (Melissa Stephens) and Johnny (Christian Durso) as they have for years in the past.  The Dahls  have deep roots in their Christian faith, exhibited by brother Mark's attending seminary before bailing out to take up law and speaking in tongues evangelical sister Diana, married to failed Episcopal priest James  (Graham Sibley).  Add to the mix, daughter Evie's  wife, Pippa (Tina Huang) and a gathering that anyone who has ever been at the core of a strong family tradition will at once warmly embrace while sometimes regarding it with horror.  Headland's writing, which includes some beautifully performed and deeply meaningful singing reflecting the Christian holiday and deeper: family time that exudes from each member of the family and extended family and one surprise guest Laurel (Sarah Utterback) in a literally palpable way.  Strong traditions stick with us.. as they do with the Dahls and reach into the depths of the audience in such a way as to bring us to the heights of the good memories and laughter until the 'truth' comes out and deep feelings scatter to the four winds. 

The beauty of this full length one act is the clear and well limned performances from every one of the characters.  Director Annie Tippe allows her ensemble cast to function as a perfectly tuned machine while each character being, at once, a part of a strong family tradition, presents a well honed individual. Each  character's arc demands our full attention.  The ensemble is organic. 

The sin of Pride underlies each of the Dahls in a unique way.   Unintentional slights, patriarch Bill's call for Peace and Love, an occasional meltdown when Ginny can't fix things, the love of a pregnant lesbian couple, the need for mind calming drugs and the success of AA all combine to completely enchant ... Yes, this is an enchanted evening that belongs on Broadway. Broadway comes to Atwater!

It's tough to enjoy the players without a program, so I hope that this highly recommended show will be attended well and that those who want to know who the actors are will print this out for their convenience.  Here's a link to the IAMA program with all the basics that one usually finds in one's lap as the curtain goes up. (copy and paste, please)

 Perhaps IAMA wants us to see the play as a truth made whole by the characters and to discover the actors later.  It's a bit of a nuisance, trying to credit everyone from memory, but rest assured, this is a memorable memory play, with onstage music that obviously is a complete pleasure for the cast to engage in.   
Co-Lighting Designers Josh Epstein and Ginerva Lombardo add nuance on a beautifully  functional set by Jeff McLaughlin.

If professional writing and performances are reasons for coming to the theatre, The Cult of Love is a show that must not be missed. 

The Cult of Love by Leslye Headland
Directed by Annie Tippe

IAMA Theatre Company  
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039 
Thursdays through Sundays
Closes June 24, 2018
Tickets and information: 

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