NATURE VS. Unsure at Whom it’s Swinging….

By Ernest Kearney  — Karen Wilmer-West’s Nature vs., onstage at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre during Hollywood Fringe Festival, begins with a nicely farcical melding of a totalitarian dystrophic America fused to an upper class ladies book club where the discussion is focused on the latest best-selling “bodice ripper.”

The structure of the “new” society that has replaced the old Republic of Madison, Jefferson, Hamilton and all those other guys is stiflingly hierarchical in nature, such as is presently found in China. 

In this society everyone is assigned to one of nine “estates” based on tests conducted once every seven years.  These determine an individual’s rank and social standing.  It also assigns their designated fields of employment, stipulates what cities they are allowed to reside in, so as to be among “their own kind,” and designates whom they may take for their spouses, and whom they may not. 

The “1st Estate” are the political leaders and power brokers, the 3rd is reserved for the “designers,” and others are reserved for the like of sport figures or farmers or… well, you get the idea. 

The disruption in the dramatic Wilmer-West’s narrative arrives on stage with the appearance of an “Enforcer” (Delaney Milbourn) at the apartment of the book club hostess Betsy Love (playwright Wilmer-West.) 

There the Enforcer informs Love and the other members of the club (Tibby Ellis and Jean-Marie Jones) that one of the “1st Estate” divas, in fact the winner of “Queen of the 1st Estate” three years running (Annie Parker), has magnificently flummoxed her most recent test plunging her from the New Republic’s top tier down to the estate set aside for gardeners.

Now all of this holds great potential for satirical mockery and delightful high-jinks.  Alas none of that is achieved because the potential and promise of the piece is undercut by the failure to establish a foundation for the comedy and action of the premise to be built upon.

You can boil all comedy down to a subversion of order:

Four young Athenians flee their oppressive city and run right into magical denizens of Fairyland.

A shy Brit arrives in rural Georgia where the well beloved local preacher, and secret Grand Dragon of the KKK, assumes that this foreigner in their midst doesn’t understand English.

A successful New York drama critic is at the home of his sweet elderly aunt when his serial killer stepbrother shows up.

Comedy is all a matter of presenting a firm “Who-Where-Why” that is then rendered topsy-turvy by the introduction of “Huh-What-No-Way.” 

An audience needs to be presented with the grand decorum and highfalutin gravitas of the opera, or the Marx Brothers running amuck is meaningless.

Wilmer-West loses the opportunity of establishing the needed foundation by smothering her expository information under the catty bickering of the book club ladies and rather slapdash direction. 

There are some very amusing lines tossed about here – “A mother has no favorites,” one character declares in speaking of her children, “just a clear eye for winners.”  This gives one the sense that the playwright thought getting “laffs” right out of the starting gate was the most important aspect of a successful comedy.  She’s wrong. 

Playwright and Co-Director Bradley Gosnell could do Nature Vs. a world of good with a bit of re-thinking as well as a little tightening up and some paring down of the first five minutes.

No medal awarded.


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Nature vs. is playing the Hollywood Fringe at


Asylum @ Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre 

(SFS Theatre mainstage)
5636 Melrose Ave


For Tickets, Dates and Additional Information Go To:

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An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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