“Too Much Sun”… Eclipsed By Its Opening Act

By Ernest Kearney  —  Too Much Sun by Playwright Nicky Silver, presently a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre, is a clever and witty work whose cleverness and wit is severely hamstrung by the looseness of its own first act.

Audrey (Diane Cary) is an actress possessed of a talent only slightly in excess of her tempestuous nature; that of which she has long allowed free rein.  She storms out of a production of Medea and straight into the beach front vacation home of her long-suffering daughter Kitty (Autumn Reeser) and her husband Dennis (Bryan Langlitz).  Kitty agonizes over the length of her mother’s stay, “From the look of her luggage she’s here for life.”  Nor do things improve when the oft-married Audrey sets her sights on Winston (Clint Jordan), the somewhat dense next-door neighbor, much to the annoyance of her daughter and Winston’s gay, pot-selling son Lucas (Bailey Edwards).  You can add to this stew the presence of Gil (Joe Gillette), the junior agent sent after Audrey to coax her back to the theatre.

Here you have all the pieces for a standard comedy, but the problem is they’re employed in a most un-comic like fashion.

Comedy is fueled by that special tension resulting when order is besieged by disorder:

The New York radio wit Sheridan Whiteside is invalided in the household of an Ohio factory owner and his family.

The fastidious, neurotically neat Felix becomes the roommate of his friend, the super sloppy Oscar.

The somber funeral of a deceased mother of two sisters is intruded on by the estranged husband of the younger sibling.

The dignity of the Athenian court is assaulted by disobedient lovers, rustic mechanicals and the denizens of fairyland.

 

The old theatre saw holds that, typically, within a dramatic framework, when the onslaught of chaos results in a funeral we have a tragedy, and when it concludes in a wedding, a comedy.

To Silver’s credit he plows unflinchingly right through that concept ending with both a wedding and a funeral.  But what he fails to do is to establish for the audience what is at stake in the battle to come, or why we should care about those characters destined to fall victim on its bloody field.

Silver intends for us to find his play life affirming but neglects to show us a life on stage that is worthy of affirmation.

That the histrionic Audrey has dropped into her life is the source of great angst for her daughter, but Silver doesn’t show us the serenity that her presence has upturned.  There is much complaining of it between Kitty and Dennis but excessive exposition in a comedy is akin to outfitting ballerinas in clogs.

Director Bart DeLorenzo crafts moments and keeps the play chugging along, but he is pushing an engine that should be running under its own steam.  Reeser does exceptional work as the daughter smothered by the persona of her mother, Jordan is likeable as the clueless Winston who has become the deer in Audrey’s headlights, and Gillette has moments as the talent agent who longs to be a rabbi.

But here another major flaw arises, which impedes the actors in their performances.  Dennis talks to Lucas about his relations with Kitty, Jordan talks to Kitty about his relations with his son, Lucas talks to Kitty and Dennis about his relations with his father, and Kitty will talk to anybody about her relations with her mother.

The audience is given a good deal of dialogue about the relations of those on stage but it sees very little of those relationships in action.

The first act finishes with a simple action between two characters that foreshadows “trouble brewing” in the second.  That action doesn’t arrive as a conclusion woven into the comedic fabric, but as an afterthought haphazardly stapled on.

Silver intended for it to be a shocking revelation but without presenting his characters in a manner that would allow the audience to invest in them, the “shocking revelation” comes off with all the dramatic impact of noticing that someone in line for a ride at Disneyland has his fly open.

The second act fares better.  We now know what’s at stake for Silver’s characters and we have had the entire first act to establish the needed order.

But it is too little, too late.  For all of Silver’s funny business —and he does have plenty of that to dispense— he leaves the audience wishing they had seen the play that his second act shows was possible.

It is, alas, a poor reflection on any show when afterward the comment you hear repeated the most as you make your way to the exit is, “Wasn’t it a lovely set?”

Well, it was.  Kudos to Alex M. Calle for that.


Too Much Sun

A visiting production at The Odyssey Ensemble Theatre

Runs March 2nd to April 21st.

Thurs thru Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 2pm.

Venue:

The Odyssey Theatre

2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA. 90025

For Tickets and Information

Click HERE.

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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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