Los Angeles Theater Review: DERBY DAY (Elephant Theatre in Hollywood)

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by Tom Chaits on March 18, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Sometimes at the end of a play such as The Lieutenant of Inishmore or Killer Joe, I gaze upon the total destruction of the set and think, “I’m glad I don’t have to clean that mess up.” Such was the case with Derby Day, now physically and emotionally wrecking the stage at the Elephant Theatre in Hollywood.

Jake Silbermann and Kimberly Alexander in DERBY DAY at Elephant Theatre.

Writer/director Samuel Brett Williams’ ode to brotherly love and sadistic sibling rivalry is a total stunner that leaves the viewer drained and a bit numb from sensory overload. It all starts out well, if not a bit uneasy, as three bros meet up in a luxury box at the Oaklawn Racetrack for the running of the Arkansas Derby, but then rapidly descends into total depravity with thoroughbred speed. The trio has just come from burying their father (who they unlovingly refer to as “Big Bastard”) to make one final score on a “sure thing” which will change their lives forever. This of course is not meant to be.

Jake Silbermann, Malcolm Madera and Robert M. Foster in DERBY DAY at Elephant Theatre.

The script, laced with brutally black humor and violence, plays like an instructional primer on the repercussions of growing up in an abusive household. Older brother Frank (Robert M. Foster) escaped the bliss-free domain first and remains, while not unscarred, the least unscathed. Middleman Ned (Malcolm Madera) harbors great resentment for Frank’s desertion, leaving him and baby bro Johnny (Jake Silbermann) to suffer the wrath of the not-so-dearly departed Dad. Johnny’s diminished capacity for common sense and reasoning is clearly a result of being hit one too many times. All have sought lives of crime and mood-altering refuge in alcohol, drugs or both. There will be no phoenix rising from the ashes in this tale.

Jake Silbermann, Malcolm Madera and Robert M. Foster in DERBY DAY at the Elephant Theatre.

As the clan of misshapen misfits unloads on each other, fists and furniture fly. The fight choreography by Edgar Landa is in-your-face believable and very well executed – a particularly difficult feat to pull off in such up close and personal quarters. Mental and physical blows abound and the actor’s on-point performances deliver the final knockout punch. Mr. Foster is a wonder to watch as he navigates the murky seas of the family misfortunes, slightly outshining the very accomplished turns by Mr. Madera and Mr. Silverman.  Even though the sole female role of Becky the waitress is not as fully developed as the male parts, Kimberly Alexander manages to hold her own amongst all the raging testosterone.

Jake Silbermann, Robert M. Foster and Malcolm Madera in DERBY DAY at Elephant Theatre.

Take in Joel Daavid’s nicely designed set while you can because it will soon be in shambles along with the hopes and dreams of the brothers. Place your bets and be prepared for 80 minutes of non-stop bleakness and despair. In this Derby, the only winner is the audience.

Robert Foster and Malcom Madera in DERBY DAY at Elephant Theatre.

photos by Alex Moy

Derby Day
Elephant Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood
scheduled to end on March 22, 2014
for tickets, call (323) 960-7779 or visit www.plays411.com

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