By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
GO FAMILY PLANNING In a remount of Julia Edwards’ examination of fertility treatments, Chalk Repertory Theatre stages the production in four different private homes during its run. In a well-appointed Sherman Oaks dwelling, Olivia (Alina Phelan) comes home from work, hormone addled and ready to conceive with her husband, Hamish (David Heckel). To Olivia’s chagrin, Hamish’s childhood buddy Rosen (David Ari) and his premed, teenybopper girlfriend, Jilly (Elia Saldana), have dropped in during their cross-country road trip. As if getting rid of them to take advantage of Olivia’s ovulation window weren’t awkward enough, Hamish’s clingy mother, Greta (Danielle Kennedy), drops by, too. What ensues is a raw and emotional whirlwind of resentment, shame and angst, culminating in a waterfall of bile and vitriol as one secret after another is dredged to the surface, reminiscent in many ways of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The intimate setting, slightly disconcerting at first, provides a surreal hybrid between the close-ups of film and the living, breathing tangibility of theater. Director Larissa Kokernot masterfully manipulates the elements of this environment, such as having the audience move between the living room and the kitchen for different scenes, and brings out stellar performances from the cast, who adjust admirably to the proximity of the audience. For those tired of the stodgy proscenium, this production provides a wonderful respite, as well as a reminder of the voyeuristic thrill of live theater. Private homes around Los Angeles (call for locations); Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through April 26. (800) 838-3006. BrownPaperTickets.com. (Mayank Keshaviah)
GO HOME SIEGE HOME With a calculated blend of ancient lyricism and contemporary humor, Ghost Road Theater Company rolls out its free-wheeling and substantively edited adaptation of Aeschylus’ trilogy, The Oresteia, told over two separate bills. (Depending on the schedule, they can be seen in one day with a dinner break, or on two separate evenings.) If you’re unfamiliar with the epic, you really should know that it hinges on a series of murders, though the first is technically a sacrifice. Seeking to “rescue” his brother’s wife, Helen of Troy, from the “abduction” that triggered the Trojan War, General Agamemnon (Ronnie Clark) sacrifices his own daughter, Iphigineia, to the god Artemis in order to obtain favorable sea winds for his Troy-bound ships. And in Part 1 (Clytemnestra), though Agamemnon feels truly rotten about the deed (he slit his own daughter’s throat), his wife, Clytemnestra (Trace Turville in Part 1, Christel Joy Johnson in Part 2), feels even more rotten, obsessively mercilessly rotten: Upon her hubby’s heroic homecoming, she butchers him in their bed. Excised from Ghost Road’s interpretation are a couple of characters who complicate our emotional attachments.
In her husband’s absence, Clytemnestra took a lover, Aegisthus, who aided in the murder and who doesn’t appear here. Furthermore, Agamemnon pulled into the driveway with Roman slave-mistress Cassandra in his chariot. Such a publicly displayed sex toy would certainly put a kink in director Katharine Noon’s “Hi, honey, I’m home,” ’50s suburban aesthetic. So Cassandra is also in absentia. What remains is a nuclear family and a house, like the House of Atreus, which could really be in Covina, crumbling, slowly. Noon and company aim to conjure the psychological and cosmic forces that lead to the end of an era, which is pretty much what we’re feeling right now in our sliver of history, so it’s not hard to find connective tissue. In Part 2 (Elektra), the eponymous daddy’s girl (a role shared by Mandy Freud and Christel Joy Johnson) is the now seething daughter of Clytemnestra and the murdered Agamemnon.
She sets up camp in an alley, broadcasting her rage against her mother’s deed over a makeshift radio, like some ignored and increasingly deranged revolutionary, while awaiting the return of her brother Orestes (Ronald Wingate in Part 1, Clark in Part 2). Her bro does eventually arrive, though still a little soft in the masculinity department. With Elektra’s goading, he blusters his way to murder his mother, Clytemnestra, in order to avenge his father’s death — that would be killing number three, setting in place cycles of violence that will spin for centuries. And if Orestes doesn’t feel ambivalent enough over what he has just done, the Three Furies (the entrancing Sarah Broyles, with JoAnna Senatore, and Madelynn Fattibene) torment him to the margins of already-precarious sanity in Part 3 (Orestes), when they’re not lounging around in cocktail dresses sipping martinis and playing bridge.
Noon’s production grows increasingly absorbing as it progresses. Among its strengths is the visual unity of Maureen Weiss’ set — a house that folds up into a suitcase. (Tattered suitcases and their symbol of exile anchor Noon’s lucid point of view.) By Part 3, as their world is crumbling, the characters play their scenes in allegorically constricted compartments. The performances are never less than competent and often inspired. Though Turville’s Clytemnestra offers little of the magnetic force and comedy Jacqueline Wright brought to an earlier version of this project, Clyt at Home, Turville comes into her own with wry authority as bitch-goddess Athena, bossing around Apollo (Wingate) in Part 3.