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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Lisa Loomer's Living Out

Also see Richard's reviews of Fly Me to the Moon and The Producers

Living Out
Isabelle S. Ortega and
Rebecca Dines

TheatreWorks continues its 35th season with Living Out, Lisa Loomer's thought-provoking comedy about the predicament of two working mothers from divergent viewpoints. Living Out had its world premiere at the Mark Taper last year and moved on to the Second Stage in New York in October. TheatreWorks is presenting the Northern California premiere of the dichotomies between rich and poor folks in sunny Los Angeles.

In Living Out, Latin American immigrant Ana (Isabelle S. Ortega) signs on as nanny for the children of Nancy (Rebecca Dines), a very rich and powerful entertainment attorney. Ana is a financially struggling El Salvadorian whose husband Bobby (Ed F. Martin) is trying to get a green card. The couple has one boy living with them while their other child lives with the grandmother in El Salvador. Ana needs a job and the lawyer needs childcare for her young baby.

Nancy has conflicted feelings about leaving her child in the care of a stranger, but they finally come to an arrangement. The big question here is whose child comes first when an emergency occurs. The play examines the issues of race, class, immigration law and America's dependence on immigrant-powered industries in a story about what we share and what keeps us apart.

Living Out starts out like a sitcom as Ana goes to potential employers (Suzanne Grodner and Cassie Beck) who want a nanny with no children so the nanny can concentrate on their child. Both of these women are very patronizing and have that attitude of bored rich woman who are really not that interested in their children.

The comedy-drama's first act is loaded with laughs as we see two trios, one of nannies (Yelba Osorio, Catalina Maynard, Isabelle S. Ortega), who make cracks about the employers they work for, such as the dietary restrictions the mothers want the nannies to enforce with the children. The other trio is the mothers (Rebecca Dines, Suzanne Grodner, Cassie Beck). They talk about the same topics and wonder why there are more El Salvadorians than Mexicans as nannies.

The second act is far more serious. There are confrontations between Nancy and Ana over several issues, one involving Nancy's husband Richard (Jackson Davis). There is also a war of words between Ana and her traditionalist husband who does not like the overtime the wife is putting in at the lawyer's house. At the end of the play, things come to a head, involving Ana's child. She must make a an important decision as to who is more important - her 6-year-old child or Nancy's 3-month-old baby. The two women end up going separate ways with a deep lie still in place.

Living Out has a superb cast of actors. Isabelle S. Ortega (played the role in Minneapolis, Death of Meyerhold, Darwin's Finches locally) is marvelous as Ana. She has great comic and dramatic timing, and she plays the compliant woman who is still exquisitely in control of her life. Rebecca Dines (Bees in Honey Down, The Man Who Came to Dinner and now a Los Angeles actress) returns to TheatreWorks as Nancy. She is excellent as the bewildered wife who portrays both anger and confusion extremely well.

Yelba Osorio and Catalina Maynard are first rate as the other nannies, with Ms. Maynard the sharpest comedian of the group. She has some great zingers, especially when she is on the cell phone with her employer. Cassie Beck and Suzanne Grodner are wonderful as rich LA housewives, into everything except their children. Ms. Grodner does a bang-up job as a character you would love to hate.

The two male leads, Jackson Davis and Ed F. Martin, are somewhat subliminal in this production. However, Davis makes the most of his role by bouncing all over the stage as a very liberal and politically correct public defender. He wants to become part of the masses. Martin is also very good as the husband who only wants sex and food from his working wife.

Armando Molina's direction is very effective and conspires with the gags that Ms. Loomer has penned. The set design by Eric E. Sinkkonen is very good and the living room is used by both families to great advantage. The park bench scenes also integrate with the main set.

Living Out runs through October 31 at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. For tickets call 650-903-6000 or visit www.theatreworks.org.

Their next production will be Striking 12, a rewired version of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale of the Little Match Girl, that was part of the TheatreWorks New Works Initiative in 2003. It plays at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto December 1 through January 2nd.


Photo: David Allen


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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