Theater Review: DEATH OF A SALESGIRL (Bootleg Theater)

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by Jesse David Corti on November 14, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


The World Premiere of Patricia Scanlon’s Death of a Salesgirl is a must-see surreal tragicomedy presented by The Bootleg Theater. Its fresh and innovative use of space coupled with its inspired use of integrated multimedia make the already powerful piece that much more immediate to today’s attention deficient audience. If Death of a Salesman was fraught with a Eugene O’Neill-esque understanding on toxic relationships with the vision of David Lynch: this would be the end result. Salesgirl Catherine (Cat for short) checks into her room, spending the last $300 to her name to cover the security deposit, hoping that tomorrow she will be able to break new territory and be somebody…somebody special. But before she hits the sheets and counts her sheep, the nightmare begins. A kaleidoscopic clash between the crippling forces of the past and the healing power of the future builds to a cacophonous climax with a starkly sobering resolution. Director Matthew McCray raises the overall effectiveness of the piece with a dazzling synthesis of multimedia, deft staging, and allowing the actors the freedom to boldly portray their off-kilter characters. This well-written three-person play flies by in eighty minutes with its stirring visuals, madcap mayhem, black humor, and engrossing performances.

Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of DEATH OF A SALESGIRL at Bootleg in Los Angeles

Scanlon works double-duty as playwright and lead actor of the production. She crafts a strong piece that not only deals with the hare-brained insane world of sales, but delves deeper into the darkness of dependency and co-dependency. No person, object, or room is safe from the toxicity and abuse of alcohol. As Cat, Scanlon gives an unforgettable performance from the first monologue through the final exit; throwing everything she’s got including the kitchen sink. There are a few moments where she draws out the moments too long, but apart from that her performance is electric, hilarious, and riveting as the girl looking for the right direction, trying to escape the past that continues to claw and hold her captive. Paul Dillon gives a tremendous performance as her mysterious friend Frank balancing his character’s brutal alcoholic behavior and paternal banal sense of humor with great dexterity. Jeremy Mascia (Michael/Management) plays his roles well and doesn’t detract from the production. With the two aforementioned talents and the meatiness of their roles—this part ought to be as small as its written and as economically played as he performed it.

Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of DEATH OF A SALESGIRL at Bootleg in Los Angeles

The technical aspects are stunning and superb. First, Francois-Pierre Couture’s set and lights start simple, but throughout the course of the play the complexities and detailed nature of each are exhibited and exposed in an eye-widening fashion that is unfair to reveal. The set comes alive with a few surprises and the lighting maintains a feverishly eerie atmosphere. The video and animation provided by Adam Flemming and Dan Lund, respectively—is refreshing and astonishing akin to Disney’s Song of the South and Zemeckis’ Who Framed Roger Rabbit. All the more impressive as the effects are executed live; the actors interact with the projections seamlessly, driving the story forward dynamically. John Zalewski’s sound and music help seal the atmosphere with a Badalamenti-meets-Manfredini mood: Chilling and dissonant, but haunting and ethereal.

Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of DEATH OF A SALESGIRL at Bootleg in Los Angeles

Salesgirl uses the MacGuffin of Cat’s need to be the best salesperson to shed light on what poisons an individual and holds them back from realizing their full potential. It offers a solution that is not only gratifying on an artistic level but on an emotional level as well; resonating long after the final fade out. The multimedia pizzazz will attract a group of theatregoers that would be more reticent to attend ‘a night of theater’ and they will be pleasantly gob smacked by this subversively sophisticated piece. Given this period of a suffering economy and unemployment still high, this play is timely—but with the sharp analysis of the tumult and torture involved in toxic, unhealthy relationships—the piece is timeless.

photos by Justin Zsebe

Death of a Salesgirl
Bootleg Theater
ends on November 17, 2012
for tickets, call 213-389-3856 or visit Bootleg

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dean Seal November 11, 2021 at 9:32 am

Is there a digital capture of this that I can access? I live a million miles away in a time long ago, and I could not attend this performance. Please write.


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