Friday, June 15, 2018


CULT OF LOVE by Leslye Headland

I was so intrigued and impressed by the performance of the First Team Cast for Headland's CULT OF LOVE at IAMA that when I learned that special performances by the Understudy Cast would be going up, I asked to review their efforts.  Truth be told, I have always admired the work of Sharon Lawrence from her days on NYPD Blue. I really wanted to see how she handled a role that was probably a little too old for her.  Indeed, she retains the youthful look she enjoyed on her television turn.  As Ginny Dahl, Lawrence portrays the mother of four kids, Mark Dahl, Evie Dahl, Diana Dahl Bennett and Johnny Dahl. Each of whom could not be more different from the next.  It's the keen delineation of each of the family members and a surprise guest, Lauren (perfectly confused Emily Rowan), that makes a Christmas celebration in the family home the joyous and sometimes uncomfortable event that unfolds.  Ginny has moments of denial and upset that are not funny to her, but hilarious to the audience!

Daughter, Diana, (Anna Rose Hopkins) is the mother of  baby George,  who is either nine months or a year old. He is still breastfeeding.  Full on pregnant with child number two, Ms Hopkins  brings a strong and loopy performance.  Husband, James Bennett (Alex Alcheh) reveals that he has been let go from his job as an Episcopal priest because of his beliefs that Diana is, in fact a prophet, which we observe as the drama unfolds.

Keeping in mind that this is an 'understudy' cast, the strong performances, with the only glitch manifesting in an unruly bank of lights over which tech seemed to have no control, the 'understudy night' audience, filled with flowers and well wishers were not phased as they cheered their pals.. deservedly so..

Lesbians, daughter Evie (Jenna Johnson) and Pippa, her spouse (Anisha Adasumilli),  are severely judged as Diana lectures them on their earthly ways that will not guide them to Heaven and their last judgement. 

In his Harvard T shirt, Mark (Josh Bywater) having left the seminary to pursue Law (clerking at the US Supreme Court!). Mark has major issues with his beautiful wife, Rachel (Erin Pineda) who has major issues with this whole family thing. Ultimately,  he brings his seminary training to a crucial climax to the play.  

Most favored son.. or not.. Johnny (Tim Peper) is the freest  spirit of the four kids. He arrives late with his surprise guest, Lauren.  Ginny remains in denial that her son has ever been a drug addict (now successfully recovering). Johnny  is the AA sponsor of  Lauren, who celebrates her first drug free Christmas. 

The only member of this cast who is not an understudy  is the  Family Patriarch, Bill Dahl.  As Bill, Tom Amandes duplicated his level headed and loving presentation.  Steady on.  What playwright Headland provides in this final take on her Seven Deadly Sins series (this one examines the sin of pride) are monologues that reveal the polemic that may or may not support the idea of redemption and harmony.  Not one member of this cast fell below the work of the First Team, leading me to suggest that IAMA consider the way that Antaeus presents their shows, with two entirely different casts performing at alternate times.  The IAMA talent roster is deep and deserved the Opening Night "Standing O" brought by their pals who were stacked to the rafters.  

When a show comes together seamlessly, seeming to have its own energies, it takes a moment to remember that the ensemble coalesces because of a director whose hand becomes invisible. Annie Tippe is the director who brought this show together completely and smoothly

Headland's writing and character arcs are delicious and funny and touching and sad.  How I'd love to see the other six plays!

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: 


No comments:

Post a Comment