A Morality Tale on Thin ‘ICE’

by Ernest Kearney — Ice at the 24th Street Theatre is really a matter of  “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men.”

Now there are few theaters in Los Angeles that can approach the 24th Street Theatre in either its quality of work or in the importance it holds in the theatrical community of this city.

Co-founder/Artistic Director Debbie Devine and Executive Director Jay McAdams have not only taken a 19th century carriage house and produced vital and exciting theatre, but they have provided a template for the successful integration of a theatrical venue into the neighborhood in which they are situated.

To express and consummate a community has been the pinnacle of theatrical ambition since Athens and the birth of the stage, and attending any production at the 24th Street Theatre one can see that Devine and McAdams have gone beyond the fulfillment of “community.”   They have melded their theater and its environs into a family.

In solidarity with their working-class neighborhood of recent immigrants and Angelino families, the 24th Street Theatre has, during the reign of Trump, announced their intention of “Standing up – Speaking up!” Ice is distinctly a gauntlet thrown down in defiance of the political climate we find ourselves in.

The tale is a simple morality play.

Chepe (Jesús Castaños-Chima) is an undocumented alien struggling to find some piece of the American Dream as he endures unscrupulous contractors who underpay and the constant threat of apprehension by ICE (the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.) 

Chepe finally see his chance of establishing his independence with the purchase of an old rundown shell of an ice cream truck in which he envisions selling his gourmet tacos.

He puts in a call to his cousin Nacho (Tony Durán) in Mexico to come and join him in the states and to bring his mother’s secret salsa recipe along with him.

Now along the way, a blind priest (Davitt Felder) blesses the rundown shell of an ice cream truck which, in a nod towards magical realism, suddenly has a soul of its own, which only Nacho is aware of.

Davitt Felder (Photo by Cooper Bates – Courtesy of 24th ST Theatre)

All of these elements could have added up to an interesting enough show except that playwright Leon Martell has forgotten to add in a pinch of gravitas to his subject matter.  The result is a half way decent children’s show about a very adult subject.

And here’s where “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men” come in.

Castaños-Chima and Durán — so memorable in 24th Street’s superb production of La Razón Blindada give their all here.

Director Debbie Devine, with the help from Video Designer Matthew G. Hill, pulls out all the stops as well.

And while this production is well-acted and beautifully staged, “All the King’s horses and all the King’s men” can’t lift the play itself much above middling.

Sadly, this subject warrants a much better play than Martell has given us.

However, it must be said, that a “middling” production at the 24th Street Theatre is still head and shoulders above the very best work at nearly any other theatre in this town.

♦     ♦     ♦

Now I do a bit of nit-picking here, as the play is set in 1988 and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency didn’t come into existence until after 9-11, but let’s overlook that.

(NOTE — Featured Image: Tony Dúran and Jesús Castaños-Chima / Photo by Cooper Bates)


is On Stage at the
24th Street Theatre

Now Through June 10

Go to the website (24th Street Theatre) for Dates, Times, Tickets  and Additional Information





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

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