Elemeno Pea
City Theatre

Also see Ann's review of How I Learned What I Learned

Robin Abramson and Kimberly Parker Green
Molly Smith Metzler's contemporary play Elemeno Pea is being presented at City Theatre through March 22. The comedy-drama has a sitcomy feel; in fact, after several twists and turns, it's easy to imagine how twelve more episodes could go.

However, there is more here than is usually found in the yuck-yuck style sitcom commonly presented on television. Characters change direction, and things are both settled and unsettled by the end. That said, maybe it's like the pilot of a sitcom , some of which are a lot better than what comes after. As a whole, Elemeno Pea works as the one-act play it is, though some of the parts are unconvincing.

Simone and Devon arrive at a Martha's Vineyard guest house; they are sisters, and we quickly see sisterly things: affection on the surface, and resentment bubbling up. Yale graduate Simone's hoped for writing career has been set aside while she earns big bucks as the 24-hour personal assistant of Michaela, who lives a very lavish life on this estate with her husband Peter (unseen in the play). Simone's responsibilities and her compensation are sources of pride for her, but objects of ridicule for older sister Devon, whose life has been on a downturn for the last few years. Simone has brought Devon here for a girls' weekend, hoping to treat her to some luxuries that are from her Olive Garden kitchen, mom's Buffalo basement life. But such treats are tough for Devon to take, and she makes fun of most everything that impresses Simone. When Michaela arrives on the scene, in an emotional state, insisting that Simone attend to her instead of enjoying free time with her sister, the tension ratchets up quickly. So far, it's fairly predictable. But Metzler's script takes some unexpected turns.

This is a fast-paced play (Tracy Brigden directs with a skilled hand), partly due to the smart and droll dialogue written by Metzler. As Simone and Devon, Robin Abramson and Ariel Woodiwiss are an odd fit. Though siblings can be very different, these two women seem to be more acquaintances than sisters. But as written, their personalities are set up perfectly for how the story progresses—to a point. Woodiwiss, in particular, gives an impressively natural performance. As the needy Michaela, Kimberly Parker Green gives a perfect performance; she indicates verbally and physically the many shades of Michaela, ultimately the most complex character of the show. As Jose, or Jos-B as the women call him, the overworked handyman who's on to everyone, Tony Chiroldes brings a lot of life to the stage. Ethan, Simone's beau and Michaela's husband's best friend, is played by Anthony Comis. Unfortunately, this role is thinly written; he adds very little to the play, and does not work as a love interest for Simone. The character drags things down a good bit, though it's not the actor's fault.

Tony Ferrieri provides the pleasant, large set of a stylish beach house with a view, though the furniture doesn't seem so posh.

Elemeno Pea (the title comes from that part of the alphabet, and is part of the sisters' childhood, though I don't know why it's spelled the way it is) sails along with wit the progression of some intriguing elements, and the characters are interesting. The way it ends is the end of twists, and carries a message of sorts, but I wanted more. Maybe a darker second act a la Into the Woods would make this a complete and more fulfilling evening of theatre.

Elemeno Pea, at the City Theatre through March 22, 2015, 1300 Bingham St, Pittsburgh. For tickets and performance information, call 412.431.CITY (2489) or visit citytheatrecompany.org.

Photo: Alex Jones

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-- Ann Miner

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