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Jennie Fahn’s ‘Under the Jello Mold’—Perfectly Set, Firm to the Touch

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By Ernest Kearney — For those of a certain generation, Jennie Fahn’s piqued but perfectly prancing paean to her late mother roars with resonance.

“My mother didn’t wear sneakers,” Fahn proclaims at the opening of her one-woman show, Under the Jello Mold, on-stage thru November 4 at The Whitefire in Sherman Oaks. And though she is an East coast Jewish daughter and I a West coast Irish son, both of our mothers were of a type unique to 1950s.

Mad Men partially captured the period of sexism enveloped in a miasma of nicotine, but there was so much more, and, paradoxically, so much less.

It was a time when clothes weren’t worn for comfort, hair wasn’t natural, furniture was encased in plastic, and mirthless sit-coms were layered in canned laughter, when nothing was spoken of that bore any importance, and conversation was the white noise that filled the intervals between the Pink Squirrels and Gin and Sins at the weekend cocktail parties. Glass ceilings were plentiful and all but shatterproof, and opportunities that didn’t involve “kinder and küche” nearly nonexistent.

For Fahn’s mother, on whom either title of “little woman” or “Gal Friday” would be an ill-fit, it was likely a rough time.

It was for my mother.

With a closet full of backless high heeled mules, such as Marilyn had popularized, a row of coiffed wigs for all occasions and her “face” ready, at-hand in a train case of cosmetics, Joyce was a constant source of fascination and anguish for her daughter.

There are brief cameos by Fahn’s father and others during the narrative, which is a slight construct woven of mother and daughter arguing over a mugging, over Thanksgiving Dinner, on a visit to dad’s grave during which “mom” grills his spirit as to the dead floozies he’s dating in the hereafter.    Eventually, with little fanfare and less impact one dark family secret arrives on stage; though it seems placed there in hopes that the presence of a denouement might cloak the fact that the evening is basically a string of vignettes. This doesn’t detract from the show’s appeal, which is anchored in Fahn’s lovingly etched portrait of her mother.

The audience, too, comes to share Fahn’s fascination and frustration with the loud, brassy pint-sized panzer tank in pantyhose whom she called “mom.”

Fahn is a joy to watch as she sidesteps with an economy of effort seamlessly between characters, distinguishing instantly the persona of each.

But it is in her characterization of her vain, vivacious and vibrant mother that Fahn captures her audience, by evoking those emotions we all have encountered and endured when faced with a parent’s passing.

Fahn infuses the confrontations between the mother and child with great humor and a meticulous pacing.

It is like watching a match at Wimbledon with Fahn playing both sides of the net.

The production benefits from a pristine starkness in staging, a bare stage lit by Derrick McDaniel is provided just the right accent by Stebor Louanne’s graphics, undoubtedly with guidance from technical director David Svengalis

Melissa Fahn is listed as choreographer, and likely contributed to the gracefulness of the overall staging.

Recognizing the delicacy of Fahn’s piece, director Tom Cavanaugh has wisely structured a clean, crisp and very streamline production here, assuring there is no impediment to Fahn’s performance.

In the final analysis, Cavanaugh and his company have delivered a thoroughly crafted and engaging evening for their audiences.  And while Fahn’s piece may suffer from a deficiency of aspiration, it and Fahn’s performance display a surfeit of humanity.

♦    ♦    ♦

Under The Jello Mold

Directed by Tom Cavanaugh

Written and performed by Jennie Fahn —
five-time nominee and winner of the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival Solo Performance,
Pick of the Fringe, and Encore! Producer’s Awards

Running now through November 12:
Saturdays at 8pm
two added performances on Sunday, November 12 at 3pm and 7pm

Whitefire Theatre
13500 Ventura Boulevard
(on the corner of Sunnyslope /
between Coldwater Canyon and Woodman)
Sherman Oaks, CA

For Tickets and Information:

online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3053655

or phone (800) 838-3006


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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. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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