Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

Couples, Scruples and Marbles

Also see Sharon's recent review of Anyone Can Whistle

Blue Sphere Alliance at the Lex is presenting a one-act festival, encompassing ten one-act plays over three nights, entitled Couples, Scruples and Marbles. I attended the second night, Scruples, which was, as one might expect with world premiere one-acts, a mixed bag.

The first play, Mailroom, is a Hollywood fairy tale. The story of a motivated young man who talks his way into the "agent trainee program" (read: mailroom) at a talent agency and his ultimate ascension is pretty predictable. Obviously, the actual plot is not meant to come as a surprise to anyone (take a guess - do you think he ends up with the unapproachable beautiful woman who keeps shutting him down before he can get a word in?), but the fun is supposed to be in the journey. On that count, Mailroom can't be called a roaring success. It certainly has moments. Some of its better bits include the snappy one-liners the beautiful woman keeps coming up with, some better than average slams at the film industry and some self-mocking fairy tale references. But, on the whole, it is a predictable exercise with fairly routine jokes.

The second play, The Sticking Place, is pretty much filler. Taking place backstage before a theatrical opening, it concerns a man and a woman about to go onstage in what is clearly a Shakespearean play. We know this from the period costumes they are putting on. (The play's one laugh: the man "stuffs.") The two are having a discussion - the woman wants the man to do something nasty that will ultimately destroy another man's career. He is uncertain; she begs, she wheedles, she uses her womanly wiles. At some point, the audience recognizes her as a pale copy of a well-known Shakespearean character. As this is apparently the "twist" to this play, it is imperative that the play end before this thought crosses the audience's mind. It does not. As a result, when the play finally does end, it is with a whimper, not a bang.

Jill Brennan and Julie Shimer
in Bye Gones

But, oh, that third play. Bye Gones, by Julie Shimer, is a gem. It's the story of two sisters who meet at their childhood home three months after their mother's funeral. The characters are so instantly recognizable as people we know, much of what they say and do is expected. But to say the characters' behavior is easily predicted is a compliment, not a criticism - the play isn't predictable in the sense of going for hackneyed plot points; it is predictable because its playwright has crafted clear characters and makes certain they behave in the way they should. At one point, the sisters skip stones on a nearby lake while they're talking. From what we already know of the younger sister, I thought, "she's uncomfortable having touched a dirty rock." Next thing you know, she's reaching for a bottle of Purell in her purse and cleaning up. It's that sort of predictable - the characters are true to themselves.

Bye Gones unfolds beautifully, telling the sisters' story not only through standard dialogue but also subtext and flashback. The sisters' relationship is suggested through the way they talk to each other. One asks about the other's family; the other can't remember the name of the first's boyfriend. Little offhand digs at each other speak volumes until the characters ultimately reveal the secrets of their past and their hearts. Bye Gones is definitely a "chick" play, complete with tear-jerking. But it is beautifully constructed and solidly performed. It certainly makes Scruples worth the trip.

Couples, Scruples and Marbles runs through March 6 at Blue Sphere Alliance at the Lex. Call (323) 957-5782 for performance schedule and tickets.

Blue Sphere Alliance & Anthony Barnao, Artistic Director, present the world premiere of Couples, Scruples and Marbles. Lighting Designer Cris Capp; Sound Designer Ryan Crosby.

Written by Chris Devlin; Directed by Anthony Barnao
Victoria Hoffman - Narrator
Dale Hersh - Max
Adam Katz - Mailroom Worker, Agent, PA
Jeramiah Peay - Salesman, VP, Phil
Phet Mahathongdy - Receptionist, VP Asst., Mailroom Worker
Kelly Bellini - Receptionist, Agent, Mailroom Worker
Teaj Sanderson - Dix
Anastacia Spiegel - Deb
Christina Perozzi - Dale Dodsen
Greg Suddeth - Bo Zonelli

The Sticking Place
Written by Moira Price; Directed by Tai Bennett
Victoria Hoffman - Madeline
Moira Price - Stage Manager
John Scott Clogh - Michael

Bye Gones
Written by Julie Shimer; Directed by Moira Price
Jill Brennan - Suzanna
Julie Shimer - Nina

Photo by Molly Fitzjarrald

Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Los Angeles area.

- Sharon Perlmutter

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