Los Angeles Theater Review: THE NORTH PLAN (The Elephant Space in Hollywood)

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by Tom Chaits on May 17, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

THE NORTH PLAN STARTS ON COURSE THEN GOES SOUTH

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema LA review of in Elephant Theatre Company's "The North Plan."A ruthless splinter group has seized power in Washington and a low level bureaucrat who has escaped with the new regime’s “hit list” is on the lam and heading for a backwoods Missouri town in Jason Wells’ political satire. The North Plan, now playing at The Elephant Space in Hollywood. The script plays like it was spawned as the bastard love child of David Mamet (American Buffalo) and Martin McDonagh (The Lieutenant of Inishmore). “F” bombs and gratuitous violence abound, but unfortunately the end result never quite measures up to its parental pedigree.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema LA review of in Elephant Theatre Company's "The North Plan."It all starts off quite well. The setting is the backroom of the local police station (set design by Joel Daavid) where the prisoner holding cells are located. The sole inmate is the local gun toting, foul-mouthed, loony-yet-lovable Tanya (Kerry Carney) who it seems has turned herself in for drunk driving. She is trying to obtain her release by badgering, with motor-mouth precision, the uniformed administrative assistant Shonda (Bernadette Speakes). Shonda, sitting quietly at her desk reading the paper, is having none of it but that does not stop Tanya from continuing her verbal assault which, as written by Wells and performed by Carney, is quite often hilarious.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema LA review of in Elephant Theatre Company's "The North Plan."Enter the complacent Andy Taylor-esque (of Andy Griffith / Mayberry RFD fame) Chief Swenson (Stan Roth). Completely unsympathetic to Tanya’s situation he informs Shonda he will be bringing in another prisoner to be held until Homeland Security agents can arrive to question him. It turns out it is none other than Carlton Berg, the aforementioned escaped bureaucrat. Once caged, he pleads with the girls to let him out before his inquisitors arrive. The fate of the free world is in his hands and they must help him before it’s too late. Intermission.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema LA review of in Elephant Theatre Company's "The North Plan."The first act is very short, barely 35 minutes, and the primary purpose of the intermission is to do an extensive set change. Act two, which is not much longer, is set in the front room of the police station. Gone are the cells replaced by desks and other police paraphernalia. There is a doorway off to the rear leading to an unseen room where the two agents are practicing their “enhanced interrogation” techniques on a screaming Carlton. We meet agents Pittman (Dominic Rains) and Lee (John Forest) and are immediately entertained by their bungling ineptitude and volatile relationship. While the dialogue continues to be quite amusing and funny, a series of twist and turns ranging from the ridiculous to the downright unbelievable unfold and the show goes into the crapper. The effectiveness of the final showdown is totally blown by unconvincing props and amateurish sound effects that are simply laughable, and not in a good way. It turns a farce into a cartoon. It’s a real shame because up until then the show seemed to be building to greatness and then the balloon pops and the fun is gone. (Editor’s note: See Stage and Cinema’s review of The North Plan at Theater Wit in Chicago.)

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema LA review of in Elephant Theatre Company's "The North Plan."The cast members are all very good but the real star of the show is Kerry Carney as Tanya. To be fair to the other performers, her part is the best written, but she takes the bull by the horns and runs with it. She is hysterical to watch. Shonda, Carlton and the Chief are pretty much thankless roles but the actors make the most out of them. As the agents, Mr. Rains and Mr. Forest have great chemistry and play off each well, resulting in some very funny repartee. It should be noted that those two roles are double cast so I can only speak for the team I saw.

Director David Fofi keeps the action moving briskly but really needs to be taken to task for allowing the show to deteriorate in the final moments. You are willing to forgive the absurdities in the script but the unconvincing showdown is unforgiveable. It ruined for me what could have been a very enjoyable evening in the theater.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema LA review of in Elephant Theatre Company's "The North Plan."

photos by Joel Daavid

The North Plan
The Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica in Hollywood
scheduled to end on June 1, 2013 EXTENDED to June 8, 2013
for tickets, call (855) NO-FORGET [663-6743]
or visit http://www.ElephantTheatre.org

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