Los Angeles Theater Review: THE SNAKE CAN (Odyssey Theatre)

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by Tom Chaits on January 25, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


Three BFFs get together to commiserate over their fates in the world premiere of The Snake Can, Kathryn Grant’s (Hermetically Sealed) shallow and unfulfilling salute to middle age angst. Devoid of subtext and any semblance of substance the show struggles unsuccessfully to elevate itself above the pedestrian offerings commonly banished to the Lifetime channel.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of THE SNAKE CAN at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles

We meet Meg (Sharon Sharth), a twice divorced beauty who just can’t seem to keep a man, Nina (Diane Cary), an artist who leaves her famous actor husband Paul (Gregory Harrison) so she can finally escape his shadow to shine on her own (and paint with her naked body), and Harriet (Jane Kaczmarek), a mother and widow who is just now emerging from seven years of grief and discovering the wonders of on-line dating.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of THE SNAKE CAN at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles

At least Ms. Grant realizes it would be too oppressive to simply let these three women whine for two hours so she introduces us to some of the men in their lives as well. There’s Jake (Joel Polis), a clueless schlub who declines sex with Meg because he doesn’t want to ruin what they have together, the aforementioned Paul who can’t quite grasp why Nina would ever want to leave such a catch as him, and Stephen (James Lancaster) a bisexual bon vivant Harriet meets on-line. Thrown in for good measure and a bit of much needed comic relief is Brad (Joel Polis doing double duty) a flamboyant “acquaintance” of Stephen.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of THE SNAKE CAN at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles

The direction by Steven Robman is virtually non-existent and as a result most of the performances are bland, one-note, uninventive interpretations bordering on the amateurish. Of course when you consider the uninvolving drivel they are serving up it may not be solely the fault of the actors or the director. Mr. Harrison and Ms. Cary have big emotional moments in Act II that, as played, are so overtly melodramatic they would not even pass muster on an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful. While Mr. Polis plays Jake with some mild amusement, his flowery vision for Brad comes dangerously close to being the stereotypical gay guy you can find on any number of sitcoms. Only Jane Kaczmarek and James Lancaster manage to muster any real sense of depth of character. Their scenes together, especially in Act II are engrossing. They are clearly real people coping with the unconventional and unpredictable dilemmas people are often forced to come to terms with in real life.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of THE SNAKE CAN at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles

Then there’s the set design by Jeffrey P. Eisenmann. The whitewashed walls feature wooden slats in box shapes and “X” configurations more suited to the side of a barn. Perhaps there was some deep symbolic meaning to the shapes but if there was it totally escaped me. What was even more perplexing is that throughout the show images are projected on the walls (they are almost a character unto themselves) and those slats make it very difficult to see and read the projections. At one point Harriet fixes Meg’s sink. Since the sink it not a “working” prop Ms. Kaczmarek basically mimes the water coming out. It is a totally untruthful moment and you can tell by the look on her face that she knows it. The director could have easily rethought the action to make it more believable or cut the bit all together.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of THE SNAKE CAN at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles

The rest of the set pieces are cheap and cheesy. One of the first things I noticed was that there were shiny drawer handles on the side of the couch. I could not ever recall seeing a couch with handles on its side. Later in the show their purpose became clear when two of the actors used the handles to pick up the couch to turn it around during a dimly lit set change. While that’s very considerate to make life a little easier on the actors, Mr. Eisenmann could have easily incorporated a design element that could have both looked like they belonged on the couch and also helped the actors to move it. Unfortunately the handles were indicative of the slipshod nature of many of the set pieces… and the direction.

As the baby boomer population continues to age we will no doubt see many more forays into tomes dealing with life in the golden years. Hopefully they will prove to be more worthy of our time than The Snake Can.

photos by Ed Krieger

The Snake Can
Indie Chi Productions at the Odyssey Theatre in West L. A.
scheduled to end on February 24, 2013
for tickets, call (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or visit http://www.OdysseyTheatre.com

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