Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Between Us Chickens
The good news is that this isn't, in fact, all there is to these characters. The bad news is that by the time we learn what's really going on, we have ceased to care about either one of them. Both of these characters are not only superficially drawn, but also unlikeableyou don't even root for them in a "charming anti-hero" sort of way. So, although we ultimately learn that Meagan's partying lifestyle is just an insecure former "fat girl" from Pennsylvania being excited that she's fitting in with the hip Los Angeles scene, it comes long after she's treated Sarah so poorly, it is hard to scrounge up any sympathy for her. Sarah, too, is a bit more than she appears. She says she makes a living playing Internet pokera claim that appears suspect from the moment she first makes it, as her tightly wound body language suggests she lacks the unflappability of a champion poker player. We learn later on in the play that there's a bit more going on in her late-night poker sessions than she lets on, but, again, it is way too late in the play for Sarah to finally get interesting. (Also, the way she is making her money depends on a fortuitous combination of circumstances that seems astonishingly unlikely to occur. That it happens with enough regularity that she can actually use it, and re-use it, to make tens of thousands of dollars seems to be pushing coincidence far beyond believability. And yet, I'd hate to have playwright Sofia Alvarez junk the idea entirely, as it is the most unique element of her script.)
The third characterthe one who enters Meagan and Sarah's relatively happy home and causes emotional chaosis Charles, a 29-year-old drifter who steals money from his sister and wants to crash on the girls' couch. Maybe the character of Charles appeals to younger audiences, but I found myself siding more with his (unseen) parents, who kicked him out and told him not to come back until he grew up. The play gets moving when Charles answers Sarah's ringing cell phone and tells Sarah's mother that he is her boyfriend. This is problematic for recent-college-grad Sarah, because her parents have been waiting all her life for her to have a boyfriend. So, Charles makes Sarah an offer: he will be her "pretend boyfriend"a role that will include taking her out and showing her L.A., as well as faking for her parents, in exchange for sleeping on her couch, well, in her bed, actually. (There isn't much of a difference between "pretend boyfriend" and actual boyfriend from where Charles sits, except he's offering this to Sarah as a business proposition, rather than out of mutual attraction.)
When Sarah rejects the offer, Meagan jumps at it, creating discord between the two womenand between Meagan and Charles, when Charles says the offer wasn't open to Meagan. There are various arguments among every pairing of the three characters, and, honestly, the whole thing is so distasteful, I didn't care which girl ended up with Charlesalthough, at different times, I thought that each one of them might have deserved a jerk like him.
Paradoxically, the thing that I most hated about the play is also the thing I most liked about it. As an illustration of how very fake people can be in Los Angelescreating false images of themselves and trying to live up to themBetween Us Chickens is actually pretty effective. I just wish that, somewhere in the play, we had been following the journey of a character we could genuinely care about.
Between Us Chickens runs at the Atwater Village Theatre through June 19, 2011. For tickets and information, see www.AtwaterVillageTheatre.com.
Atwater Village Theatre presents Between Us Chickens. Written by Sofia Alvarez; Directed by Casey Stangl. Executive Producers Gates McFadden & Tim Wright; Producer Tracey A. Leigh. Stage Manager Julia Griswold; Scenic Design Casey Stangl; Lighting Design Dan Reed; Costume Design Sara Ryung Clement; Sound Design Jeff Polunas; Assistant Stage Manager Emily Kettler; Photos by Shane Zwiener & Tracey A. Leigh; Publicity Lucy Pollak; Graphic Design Tracey A. Leigh, Shane Zwiener and Liz Ross; Projection Design Adam Squires & Teddy Banks, CHIPS - New York.
Between Us Chickens runs at the Atwater Village Theatre through June 19, 2011. For tickets and information, see www.AtwaterVillageTheatre.com