Saturday, January 19, 2019


Open Fist Theatre Company presents a World Premiere:  LAST CALL  by Anne Kenney. Lane Allison directs. 
Lynn Milgrim, Laura Richardson,
Art Hall and Ben Martin
Photo by Darrett Sanders
Program notes inform us that Anne Kenney's writing credits are deeply involved in episodic television. Her 'semi-autobiographical' play has all the earmarks of that medium where it's easy to move from one time period or location to another in the blink of an eye.  Easy on television.  More difficult on the stage. Herein lies a problem. Short expository scenes and blackouts slow the pace: dramatically.
Kenney's basic story of how a middle aged creator/writer of a successful television series unfolds in a situation that many may face at one time or another. The notion is heart felt.  Where the heart exits is in the anger and strident performance of Jill (Laura Richardson), whose guilt and loss of just about everything returns her from Los Angeles to her childhood Ohio home in an attempt to fix things for her aging parents. 
Through 85 year old Walter (Ben Martin), the strong willed patriarch of Jill's family, we learn physical issues that will eventually do him in as he struggles with his wife of fifty five years, Frances (Lynn Milgrim). Frances is lapsing deeper and deeper into dementia.  Memory loss is an insidious disease and life threatening illness are the issues that challenge Jill, the successful distant daughter. Things are complicated by Jill's near do well brother, Ricky (Ben Martin) who has knocked up a sixteen year old girl, Jade (Bronte Scoggins), whom he met in rehab.  
Life on the doorstep.  Death at the door. 

The flow of a stage play and the episodic changes for television are pretty much diametrically opposed.   What Kenney and director Lane Allison have created is a mish mash of time and attitude that is "fish" and funny in one moment with a comedic line and "fowl/foul" the next with the complications turning on the end of lifeWe have an opportunity to see  attempted suicides, but are only exposed in marginal dialogue and unsubtle innuendo. 

Kenney admits in her program notes that she is unfamiliar with the stage and has taken on this project at the suggestion of her agent to possibly find a new direction.  Sadly, the direction of this project is stiff and predictable. Each of the actors seems to be somewhat on their own path with the difficult issue: what's to become of Frances and Walter, let alone Ricky and his pregnant girlfriend, Jade. How will Jill resolve her own personal situation?  

Jan Munroe's set is beautifully constructed. Ellen Monocroussos's lights and transitional music / sound by Peter Carlstedt set a tone that helps the laborious scene changes.  

Thankless appearances by Stephanie Crothers as Annette and Det. Mottinger (Bryan Bertone) to wrap things up are notable.  These are not small actors, but the parts are very small. 

The time line 'end credits' to the tune of NBC's "Your Hit Parade" Jo Stafford's "You Belong to Me" may be Kenney's tribute to her parents and her love of them. 

Though curtain speeches are seldom part of a play review, director Lane Allison brilliantly reminded the audience to turn off our cell phones and directed us to the emergency exits. Her admonition was perfect. 

The Open Fist Theatre 
presents a World Premiere:
LAST CALL by Anne Kenney
Directed by Lane Allison
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Thursdays through Sundays
Check website for talk backs and 
specific times. 
Closes February 17, 2019
Tickets and information 
323 882 6912

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