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Boston by Suzanne Bixby

Living Out

Living Out
Mariela Lopez-Ponce and
Rachel Harker

The Lyric Stage Company of Boston is currently presenting the New England premiere of Lisa Loomer's Living Out, a sharply comic and thought-provoking look at the struggles faced by working mothers from the disparate strata of the contemporary Los Angeles population. Director Lois Roach cast an ensemble that evenhandedly modulates from stinging satire to prudent pathos as the story unfolds.

The situation is expediently established when Ana (Mariela Lopez-Ponce), an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador, interviews for nanny jobs with three different Anglo women. Nancy (Rachel Harker), a high-profile entertainment lawyer on the fast track, hires her because she doesn't initially reveal her illegal status and outright lies about her young children not both living here with her in the states.

Despite the cultural divide - and considerable ignorance on the part of Nancy - a bond develops between employer and employee. Nancy confesses that she really does love to work, and Ana admits that she, too, would go crazy if she had to stay home all day. Harker makes it easy for us to believe that the glow she has for her baby daughter and bleeding-heart liberal husband shines just as brightly for the important French director she hopes to bag as a client. And Lopez-Ponce breaks our hearts when she discovers during the weekly phone call with her older son in El Salvador that he can't pick her out in the photos she's sent.

Adroitly cutting between the pressured lives of Ana and her husband Bobby (Luis Negrone) and Nancy and her husband Richard (Dale Place,) Loomer makes a connection between the two couples grappling to balance work and family in overlapping, intersecting scenes. To make this happen the playwright calls for a single playing space to represent both homes.

Scene designer Brynna Bloomfield chose an overbearing futon to occupy the middle ground that represents a shared space. This piece of furniture isn't nearly neutral enough to do triple duty as the playground bench where Ana commiserates with the other nannies (Elaine Theodore and NÚlida Torres-Colon) and Nancy occasionally seeks advice from the more experienced neighborhood moms (Lisa Tucker and Jennifer Alison Lewis).

Loomer skillfully allows each group of women to comment unfavorably - and hilariously - about the other. Even though we see the four secondary women characters only briefly, each one is distinctive and each actress delightful.

She's a little less successful with the male characters so Negrone and Place have a tougher time making their frustrations sympathetic. Both husbands are modern minded, yet still tradition bound, so as their wives working hours grow longer, the men become irritable and chafe against the reality of needing two-incomes to provide for their families.

As events progress, the tone shifts from satirical to serious. Throughout the play an undercurrent of small deceptions builds - little white lies that go down better than the truth, the slight distortion of fact that helps to correct an injustice, the withholding of something to spare another person's feelings - and when this network of fabrications unravels, the result can't be repaired.

At the talkback following the press performance, it was mentioned that a pilot based on Living Out is in the works at Showtime. As much as I hope Loomer continues to write for the stage, I can't help admitting that I'd love to see her develop these characters and situations even further.

Living Out now through April 23rd at the Lyric Stage Company, 140 Clarendon St. (Copley Square), Boston, Mass (in the YWCA Building.) Performances are: Wednesday & Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 4pm and 8pm, Sunday at 3pm and Wednesday at 2pm (March 30th and April 20th ONLY.) There is another audience "talk back" following the Sunday, April 10th performance. Ticket prices are $19 - $43 depending on performance time and seat location with a $10 Student rush tickets available 1/2 hour prior to each performance. Parking is available at the Back Bay Garage (enter from Clarendon St. between Boylston and St. James Ave.) for $6 after 5pm weekdays and all day on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available at the Lyric Stage box office (617) 437-7172 or online at www.lyricstage.com.


Photo: Lyric Stage



- Suzanne Bixby



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