Posted by: operatheaterink | June 10, 2011

Review: ‘Locked and Loaded,’ Santa Monica Playhouse, June 10, 2011

‘Locked and Loaded’ Unlocks the Doorway to the Soul With Wit and Humor.

Paul Linke and Andrew Parks

Paul Linke and Andrew Parks

Sandra Thigpen and Terasa Sciortino

Sandra Thigpen and Terasa Sciortino - Photos: Cydne Moore

TODD SUSMAN
‘LOCKED AND LOADED’
THE OTHER SPACE AT SANTA MONICA PLAYHOUSE
SEEN JUNE 5, 2011

By Carol Jean Delmar
Opera Theater Ink

What a delight it was for me to see four seasoned actors perform Todd Susman’s West Coast premiere of “Locked and Loaded” at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

There was overt humor, dry humor, dark humor and even some pathos in the mix. What could be more endearing than a naïve almost innocent prostitute who “makes” love to “give” love – who gives her heart to others to make them happy?

What could be more enlightening than another prostitute who masquerades as God? Or maybe she “is” God. After all, she knows things about people that nobody else knows. Inside her tough but perky exterior lies a know-it-all prostitute who can outwit and enlighten others while she earns a living as a working girl in a locked hotel room where the characters are not only loaded with spirits, but with a loaded gun to commit murder or suicide.

The play is reminiscent of a sort of mature and dark “Odd Couple.” Irwin Schimmel (played by Paul Linke) is an extroverted wisecracking comedy writer whose brazen humor serves to cover up his insecurities and sadness. Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks) has a more patrician background and accepts his wealth matter-of-factly. His unhappiness is masked with a suave, sophisticated exterior which utters understated sarcasms that are humorous and cynical. The two men have brain tumors, are planning suicide, but are awakened by the two prostitutes who spend their final night with them.

The play is far more than a comedy that only pokes fun at God, suicide and prostitution. The male characters have their moments of revelation. The prostitutes are real women with opinions, values and mores, and within the context of their expected roles as working girls, their virtues shine through to rescue the two men from their oblivion, thus bringing the play to an unanticipated conclusion.

What makes us realize that there is more to this play than what meets the eye and ear is a program note from playwright Todd Susman to his former high school English teacher. Susman writes about the human condition of feeling overwhelmed as exhibited by Irwin and Dickie. He refers to actress-comedian Lily Tomlin’s probable comment: “We’re all in this alone,” which mimics the timeless adage: “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.”

“So yes and no,” Susman writes, “we’re alone, but we’re alone . . . together.”

“Locked and Loaded” therefore shows how the two overwhelmed and alone protagonists are forced to unmask their true feelings and communicate with their two unlikely companions who display far more wisdom than society gives them credit for. They all grow from the experience because they are locked in a room “alone . . . together.”

So I must wholeheartedly disagree with Susman when he writes: “There’s certainly nothing to learn from it [the play], except, perhaps, that uncertainty is an abiding reason to hope.” Although true, the play reminds us that unselfish people together can vastly improve the human condition. It reminds us to befriend those who seem different or alien and respect them for their unanticipated observations, commentary and individualistic wisdom. The play teaches us to expect the unexpected and to value the worth of others.

THE CAST

Terasa Sciortino as Catorce Martinez (the naïve, generous Latina prostitute) was the perfect foil for Sandra Thigpen as Princess Lay-Ya, the all-knowing one. Their contrasting personalities, accents, looks and speaking patterns ingratiated them to us.

Catorce is utterly naïve and loving, and Sciortino made her perfectly believable. We adore Catorce for who she is, and when Sciortino thanked us for attending the show at the curtain call, we realized that there is a bit of Catorce in Terasa Sciortino. She handled the various accents with precision, which enabled her to take on the characterisitics of the other imaginary characters she portrayed. Her spirit was light and airy.

Sandra Thigpen played Princess Lay-Ya with spunk and spine. She reminded me of Wanda Sykes as Ruby in the film “Monster-in-Law.” Her wit, humor and timing were always on the right beat. I can’t imagine anyone more suited for the role even though it was double cast (I’ve read, quite effectively) with actress Tarina Pouncy.

Veteran actor Andrew Parks’ rather stiff but apropos demeanor (as Dickie) made him the straight man to Paul Linke’s more uninhibited Irwin Schimmel. Parks didn’t create a stereotype, but a real character we could sympathize with and understand, especially after his revelatory monologue in Scene 2. He played Dickie with finesse. I don’t particularly like the name Susman attributed to him, though, but then that is a minor criticism which hardly matters. The name simply didn’t fit the character that Parks inhabited so impeccably.

Linke as Irwin Schimmel was the closest to being a stereotype. It is hard to break away from the mold that is expected when you’re portraying a Jewish comedy writer. Still Linke played Irwin with much humanity and was exceedingly successful when disclosing Irwin’s inadequacies, how he got them and where they came from. Linke could elicit laughter one moment and reveal Irwin’s more serious side and inner thoughts the next. Yet for the most part, he successfully played the role for laughs.

Director Chris DeCarlo — the co-artistic director of Santa Monica Playhouse with Evelyn Rudie – has done an excellent job in creating characters that speak to the audience. His success has no doubt evolved from his knowledge of the space and what could be done creatively within its borders. He seemed to utilize the strengths of his actors emotionally and physically. I particularly liked Catorce’s final exit.

James Cooper’s nicely-appointed set was compact without being cramped.

At an hour-and-a-half without intermission – “Locked and Loaded” socked us with fast-paced dialogue executed by four talented and masterful thespians.

The play continues through June 26.

Santa Monica Playhouse
1211 4th Street, Santa Monica, CA. 90401; 310-394-9779.
Director: Chris DeCarlo
Set Design and Lighting: James Cooper
Associate Director: Serena Dolinsky
Incidental Music: John Forster
Movement Choreography: Myrna Gawryn
Costume Design: Ashley Hayes
Stage Manager: George J. Vennes III


Responses

  1. Thank you Carol Jean for reviewing us so beautifully. I’m so glad you felt as you did. It is rewarding to have such great material to work with, and then have our audience really LOVE it as I do.

  2. It’s exciting to have such wonderful material to play with. Having a ball!!


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