D Deb Debbie Deborah: A West Coast Premiere

I hate writing bad reviews.


I’d rather write glowing reviews, pouring forth accolades and singing praises to high heaven.

I truly would.

Now there are two exceptions to this ‘I hate,’ etcetera business.

If the play is a deceitful con job that has duped the innocent and the ignorant, while insulting my intelligence, then its open season. ♠

Some plays have it all from the outset—funding, talent, the whole shebang. These shows open to grand reviews because some folks get blinded by shiny things – like funding, talent and the whole shebang. When those shows are really a crock of wombat piss, especially when they’ve taken an important story and outa pure hubris mucked it up, these shows, too, I gladly lay my crosshairs over. ♣

Other than these two exceptions, like I said, I hate writing bad reviews.

But if the show had a good idea, an interesting concept or admirable talent then I feel compelled to offer my two cents as to what they had, and why I think they missed.

So, here it goes with Theatre of Note’s D Deb Debbie Deborah.

Jerry Lieblich, I’m assuming, is a first time playwright. At least there’s no other title listed in his program notes.

Lieblich had a clever idea. A shade too Twilight Zone, but not enough to be cloying.

Lieblich took this idea and wrote a play from it. The play isn’t too bad. Needs work.

The Theatre of Note put on Lieblich’s play. Now things get problematic.

Lieblich’s play is dealing with one woman’s disassociation from life. The woman in question is the D Deb Debbie Deborahof the title (Jenny Soo). We are not told why she is experiencing this fracturing of her reality however, at the outset of the play she is robbed at knife point by an unseen assailant.

Lieblich obscures this event, perhaps hinting at the encounter being something more sinister and traumatic than stated, but the issue is not resolved.

From here on, however, Soo’s character fractures.

Scenes repeat, her boyfriend, her new boss, everyone in her office keep shifting; one moment Karl, her new employer, a successful commercial artist is played by Greg Nussen, short, dark haired GQ type, the next moment the same character is being played by Travis York, a tall balding square jawed bruiser.

This transmutation occurs constantly throughout the play, and while Soo’s character is aware of each transformation she has no explanation for it.

D is for Deborah - Theatre of Note

Greg Nussen, Alina Phelan, Jenny Soo, Troy Davis (photo by Troy Blendell – Courtesy of Theatre of Note)

In one scene, set in a museum’s gallery, Nussen and York, along with Alina Phelan and Kerr Lordygan, create a commotion about Soo in which the four actors slip in and out of nine different characters cross-fading this way and that.

If this sounds confusing it isn’t.

Director Doug Oliphant moves his actors clearly about.

But being confusing isn’t the problem, being interesting is.

The play itself requires some editing, especially one brief monologue in the aforementioned gallery scene. I understand that the monologue is there to show that Soo’ character has some sand to her, but its presence undercuts the play’s closing moment which is hands down the best writing of the piece.

And it is repetitious. This work needs to be streamlined for speed.

Lieblich’s play is a work built for speed and sharp sudden swift shifts and so does not need a director and cast as much as a choreographer and dancers; which unfortunately this mounting is lacking.

Oliphant has not layered in the style by which this show lives or dies. He also shows a weak hand in dealing with the ambient sound which, sadly, contributed to this staging feeling like a workshop production, and not a very strong one at that.

Nor does it seem the cast is up to the task put before them by Lieblich, especially Soo. Her character is caught in the center of this maelstrom of metamorphoses. Instead of a woman carried away helplessly in the currents of chaotic change, or the individual facing the possibility of encroaching madness, Soo’s attitude is rather pedestrian.

This pulls down the whole house of cards Lieblich has set up, the tempest must be a raging typhoon of hurricane strength or who cares if someone rode it through.

In the right hands, with the right cast and more work on the script, this could be an odd but enjoyable piece.

But the show demanded some one with the skill of Ricky Jay at the helm, all it got was a game of fifty-two pick-up.

♦    ♦    ♦


♠  Yes The Whipping Man, I’m thinking of you.

♣  Sorry Blood, I’m talking you.

D Deb Debbie Deborah is playing
weekends: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at

Theatre of NOTE
1517 N. Cahuenga (just north of Sunset)
Hollywood, CA 90028

For Tickets and Additional Information go to

Written by

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 TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

Latest comment
  • Interesting review and very kind of you to be gentle. i remember when i read a devastating review of my first play. i was straight out of usc, and had no business thinking a play of mine that hadn’t even been work-shopped was ready to go up. reviews were mixed. one was nice , but a couple were intentionally mean. what’s the point in that? thanks for being gentle to playwrights. it’s tough when something you’ve put your heart and soul into and hope people will love falls flat. i hope this writer continues on. you do get over it eventually.


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