Los Angeles Theater Review: DISASSEMBLY (Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood)

by Paul Birchall on February 25, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

LOVE GONE NUTS

Here’s a twisted little response to the maudlin sappiness of Valentine’s Day:  Steve Yockey’s sprightly romantic farce is about love, all right, but it’s love as pathological damager, destroyer of lives, and self-sabotager of well-being.  Indeed, it’s the perfect post-Valentine’s Day sorbet palate cleanser.  Is that Cupid you see in the distance or Travis Moscinski and Alina Phelan in Steve Yockey’s “Disassembly” at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.is it Shiva, the Great Monster, here to break your heart?  Yockey clearly favors the latter.

Evan (Alexis DeLarosa) is a likable enough fellow who happens to be extremely accident prone.  As he tells it, one day, he’s just out jogging when someone just runs up and stabs him in the shoulder.  On another occasion, he just happens to fall out of his window and impales himself on a white picket fence.  His beautiful fiancée Diane (Alina Phelan) knows that the real cause of Evan’s accidents is something a little darker and more perverse, and she devotes her life to keeping him away from his near-psychotically devoted sister Ellen (Esther Canata), who clearly regards Diane as a rival for Evan’s affections.

Diane and Ellen’s escalating feud is interrupted by the arrival of Ellen’s neurotic work pal Tessa (Grace Eboigbe), who uses her hysterical laughter to mask grief over having her last several boyfriends die in the most mysterious circumstances.  She’s accompanied by her lumpen best pal Stanley (Travis Moscinski), whose unrequited love for Ellen is so deep that you just know he’s doomed to be her next posthumous ex if he isn’t careful.  Add to this outbursts from next-door neighbor Mirabelle (Channing Sargent), a miserable cat lady harpy with a crush on Evan, and from Ellen’s erstwhile Anthony Perkins creep-alike boyfriend Jerome (Tony DeCarlo), and Grace Eboigbe, Travis Moscinski, Esther Canata, Alexis DeLaRosa, and Tony DeCarlo in Steve Yockey’s “Disassembly” at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.you have a panoply of barely functional characters beset with so many mental illnesses that mere co-dependence comes across as pure sanity.

Yockey’s romancer is best described as a daffy little piece that leaves you feeling profoundly unsettled.  The piece seems slighter and less rigidly thought out than other plays by this author.  We find ourselves struck by the narrative’s internal flimsiness.  Yes, this is comedy, but the work’s core theme precludes any alternative methods for characters to cope with the situations at hand.  In fact, while love is undeniably psychologically powerful, we find ourselves rejecting the absolutism of the story:  No one has ever died from love, but here they have no place to go except the land of madness.  Mind you, part of this is the result of choices made by Yockey and director Tom Beyer, who both consciously construct the work as an old-fashioned farce with slamming doors and outbursts of shrill humiliation.

Additionally, there’s a cold-hearted symmetry to the relationships and to the characters’ behavior.  Yockey’s people are basically negative traits drawn in broad strokes, and each of his characters loves someone who quite simply doesn’t love them back.  That lack of reciprocity engenders perversity and, for want of a better word, evil behavior.  The core of all this strangeness is the bizarre relationship between DeLarosa’s genial Evan and Canata’s wonderfully creepy Ellen, whose emotional fragility seems at once recognizable and weirdly over-the-top.  However, it is gradually revealed that there’s not a sane eye in the house; even the Alina Phelan, Alexis DeLaRosa, Esther Canata, Grace Eboigbe, and Travis Moscinski in Steve Yockey’s “Disassembly” at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.character we are counting on to be the most sensible ultimately turns out to commit the show’s most appalling and bloodthirsty atrocity.

That said, Beyer’s crisply assured staging hits its marks with precision and skillful comic timing.  The production is full of enjoyable, if disturbing surprises, mainly having to do with unexpected revelations and reversals.  And the work’s playful joy is in figuring out just which psycho-pathology is going to emerge from which normal-seeming character next.  Canata’s certifiably nutsy Ellen is a delight – and so is Eboigbe’s tragically hysterical (or is it hysterically tragic?) Tessa.  Also surprisingly chilling turns are offered by Phelan’s brittle Diane and by Moscinski’s ostensibly mousy Stanley.

photos by Eric Neil Gutierrez

Disassembly
Theatre of NOTE
1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood
scheduled to end on March 22, 2014
EXTENDED to March 29, 2014
for tickets, call (323) 856-8611 or visit www.theatreofnote.com

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