Los Angeles Theater Review: BLUEBERRY TOAST (The Echo Theater Company in Atwater Village)

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by Jason Rohrer on October 22, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles

INCONVENIENT TRUTH

A show as good as Blueberry Toast should be a city-wide phenomenon but it’s going up in Atwater Village, so not a lot of people from the West Side are going to see it before it closes next weekend. If you live in Glendale you have no excuse. But if you have to come from Santa Monica or La Brea or even Los Feliz – it’s not always easy crossing the 5 – you’ve got a great out. Use it. Don’t bother seeing a bloody hot stage show. Going to some other neighborhood is scary. When you moved to Los Angeles you didn’t realize being in your car a couple of hours a day was going to be such a draining experience. Stay home. Rest. Die.

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There’s a terrible movie at a theater near you that portrays American suburbia as a Tartarus of eunuchs. Go see that if driving fifteen miles to have your suburban life shaped into meaningful feedback is just one trip too many today. Go see some mild talents earn millions of dollars selling you a lifestyle you’ve already got. But go to an Echo Theater show at your own risk. Think about it first. You might not be acclimated to that kind of news.

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Jacqueline Wright is starring in the show. She’s one of the only reliably ecstatic performers you can see year in, year out, always skating the edge of the possible, barely watchable for fear she’ll open a portal to whatever dimension she left to come here. She’s always busy. She’s always brilliant. She’ll do another. You can miss that one too. Or maybe she’ll start making more movies and then you won’t have to go to Glendale. Don’t see her in Blueberry Toast. Anything this powerful is sure to upset you. What’s on TV? You know what’s on TV. You know what shows are on tonight. Watch one of those.

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Mary Laws’ new play is, really, to be honest, probably too sharp and giddy for your taste. Like that spicy Thai that time. This romper-room kitschy-colors primer on bourgeois repression in a nuclear family will make you laugh and shout and worry and fear and maybe self-medicate. And think. Do you want that? Do you need that?

You might see yourself in Barb the neurotic wife, gaslit and henpecked by a passive-aggressive monster of a husband who just refuses to eat his breakfast; this might be the day she has to stab him for it. You might identify with Walt, who can’t wait to go nail the neighbor’s wife; good old Walt, who still has the revolver he bought to kill Barb on their wedding day. You might blink in recognition at Jack and Jill, Barb and Walt’s big-eared little pitchers, as they try to connect with parents who can’t let each other leave the kitchen this Sunday morning. Not until they finish dehumanizing each other. And maybe a little sex. And please yes baby some violence yeah give it to me.

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Dustin Wills’ direction is pointed and tastefully stylized. It’s not the realism you’re used to. It’s doing something else, something – eww – more. Rhythmic physical themes tell the story as much as the words. That’s a lot to take in, a lot to respond to. You’ll laugh and gasp but your emotions will be complex and troubling, some of them. You’ll feel more awake after this short intense play in Glendale than after a nice movie at the mall by your place. This play will make you want to talk to people. It’s not going to help you go to sleep.

Your family is your business. Your values and aspirations, your doubts and disappointments, your goddamn parents: who does Echo Theater think it is, telling you about your culture, yourself, your fucking kids? You’ve got Bed, Bath and Beyond for that. You’ve got that covered, thank you very much. Why drive ten or five miles for revelations you can stay home and avoid altogether?

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You know exactly as much about life as you want to. You don’t need art for that. That’s what the Xanax is for. That’s what the 55-inch is for. Don’t drive through the night and sit next to strangers having their own communion while you forget your self and become a more engaged and conscious creature. That’s not the way society is going. That’s not why you paid extra for gated parking and motion-activated exterior lighting. A show this well-cast and intelligently designed and unencumbered by wasted motion is not to be taken lightly. Maybe it’s not to be taken at all. Think. The full-steam subtlety of Albert Dayan, the alarming talents of Michael Sturgis, and the vulnerable rapacity of Alexandra Freeman: That’s not gonna give you a quiet peaceful night’s sleep.

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And keep in mind: Jacqueline Wright is in this show. If you see the spiritual conduit of her face you too may open up. The fluid steel of her body may teach you to exceed your self-imposed restraints. A performance like this is, bluntly put, I’m sorry, dangerous. This amount of humanity channeled through a good role is outside most people’s wheelhouse even to look upon; maybe that’s why this show’s in Glendale. You can always see her next one. Or not! You can always stay so close to home that no surprise can touch you at all.

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photos by Darrett Sanders

Blueberry Toast
The Echo Theatre Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave in Atwater Village
ends on October 29, 2016
for tickets, call 310-307-3753 or visit Echo Theater Company

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