Los Angeles Theater Review: SLIPPING (Lillian Theatre in Hollywood)

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by Jesse David Corti on April 15, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles


After previous productions in Chicago and New York, Daniel Talbott’s first play Slipping touches down in Los Angeles and serves as both the inaugural production of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in Los Angeles and his directorial debut. The deconstructed text is challenging – hopping back and forth in place and time utilizing a plethora of short scenes packed into eighty-five minutes – but the Jesse David Corti's L.A. Stage and Cinema review of Rattlestick Playwright's "Slipping."experience is compelling and occasionally shocking (there is also male nudity in this production). Ultimately, the play’s strength lies in its honest depiction of abuse and loneliness.

Slipping is the story of Eli, an angst-addled homosexual adolescent who yearns for wholeness, belonging, and healing while enduring an existence of loss, abuse, and displacement. After his father’s funeral in San Francisco, Eli and his mother pack up and head northeast, settling in Des Moines, Iowa. Eli doesn’t fully embrace his mother, and treats her instead like a “good business partner” for reasons that emerge as the play develops.

Eli is befriended at his new high school’s ceramic class by Jake, the straight, Varsity Baseball star shortstop, but as their relationship evolves, painful memories of San Francisco return – namely Chris, another straight star high school athlete who found himself attracted to Eli, but was unwilling to come forward with his true sexuality, causing Chris to lash out and be abusive towards Eli. Loss and rejection Jesse David Corti's L.A. Stage and Cinema review of Rattlestick Playwright's "Slipping."still jog through Eli’s mind, choking his ability to move on and embrace those who truly care; this leads to self-destructive activities, including cutting himself.

Seth Numrich is devastating and detailed as Eli, reprising his role from the 2009 Rattlestick production; he deftly differentiates between the two Elis: One who is the broken romantic, torn between falling in love and possibly being hurt in Des Moines; and the other, a nervously hopeful, pining romantic in San Francisco. With the repeated jumps in time, it’s impressive that he can keep his character’s opposing stages so consistent and engaging (Wyatt Fenner, recently seen in The Whale at South Coast Rep, will take over the lead role of Eli starting Sunday, April 21, 2013).

Jesse David Corti's L.A. Stage and Cinema review of Rattlestick Playwright's "Slipping."Macleod Andrews also reprises his role as the wet-behind-the-ears, eager-eyed, good ol’ boy Jake who finds himself growing more and more attracted to Eli. He’s willing to have a relationship, but Eli doesn’t know quite how to deal with it. Andrews is fearless, unassuming, and funny when depicting the silly innocence of a teen crush, but then imbues Jake’s heartbreak over Eli with whimsy and woe. Maxwell Hamilton gives a brutally stunning and unpredictable performance as Chris, the sexually confused, abusive adolescent athlete with raging hormones. He wrestles with his image as the high school paragon of heterosexuality even as he longs to be more deeply connected with Eli. The one-on-one scenes between Chris and Eli, and Jake and Eli, are electric; they can turn violent or hilarious at a moment’s notice. Wendy vanden Heuvel’s performance as Eli’s mother, Jan, is layered with subtlety and compassion; she offers the depth and dimension which her under-written role does not provide.

Jesse David Corti's L.A. Stage and Cinema review of Rattlestick Playwright's "Slipping."Leigh Allen does an exquisite job illuminating the grey opacity of San Francisco, the gold-soaked sunshine of Des Moines, the cold fluorescence of a Starbucks in New York, and the stark, swirling isolation that is inside Eli’s head. Kaitlyn Pietras’ projections provide the time and place settings, and range from ocean graphics to swirling circles to Iowan pastures to wallpaper. The wrestling fight sequences choreographed by Joe Sofranko are nimbly executed and appropriately tough to watch. Janie Bullard’s complimentary sound design includes the tracks of Joy Division and other post-punk, melancholic, in-my-room rock; the music is at the perfect volume – necessary to the characters’ reality yet unobtrusive to the audience. John McDermott’s inspired set is a multi-leveled, rug-floored, white-walled, traditional American interior space with stairs behind the audience. The spacious, leveled set allows the actors to hop into the many differing times and places seamlessly.

Thanks to the intelligent integration of multimedia, design elements, and dynamic performances, this successful production is a multi-faceted interpretation of a difficult play, and more important, an excellent start for Rattlestick here in L.A. Talbott deserves praise for vividly realizing his passionate work in a thrilling manner.

Jesse David Corti's L.A. Stage and Cinema review of Rattlestick Playwright's "Slipping."

photos by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at Elephant Stages’ Lillian Theatre
scheduled to end on May 5, 2013
for tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit Brown Paper Tickets

for more info, visit visit www.Rattlestick.org/rattlestick-LA

{ 1 comment }

Charlene May 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

This is the last weekend for the LA run of Slipping! Get your tickets before they are gone at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/335220

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