Theater Review: TO THE BONE (Open Fist at Atwater)

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by Tony Frankel on October 9, 2022

in Theater-Los Angeles


A fantastic surprise from Open Fist Theatre Company awaits you at Atwater Theatre. A great story, funny stunning dialogue, and terrific performances arrive in a play — an actual play with long scenes and zero decontructionism — comes in a gift called To the Bone, a drama cloaked in a comedy which opened this week and runs through November 5. Written and directed by Catherine Butterfield, the Boston-set family story has enough twists and turns to keep you both guessing and caring.

Alice Kors, Tisha Terrasini Banker, Jack David Sharpe, Amanda Weier, and Kacey Mayeda.
Photo by Frank Ishman.

Southie Kelly Moran (Tisha Terrasini Banker) is a “hard girl” — strong, independent, and capable of standing up for herself. Along with her sister Maureen Dugan (Amanda Weier), she awaits the arrival of her daughter Geneva (Alice Kors), given up for adoption 20 years earlier in 1993. That was a defining year to Bostonians, who are still mad about the Red Sox losing a pennant because a Yankees fan jumped onto the field in the ninth, nulling what would have been a game-winning out. (I have a friend from Boston who says she is still blistering about this 30 years and 4 championships later!) 1993 was also a pivotal year for Kelly, who is still pissed off about the lost game, sure, but nothing will prepare her for what else happened after the game. (I won’t divulge plot points here.) Kelly is also upset about a rotten second marriage — saved by her spouse’s death — and her asocial teenage son Sean (Jack David Sharpe), who refuses to come to the parlor from upstairs when Geneva shows up with college roommate, Darcy (Kacey Mayeda), who is making a documentary about the reunion for class.

Tisha Terrasini Banker and Amanda Weier. Photo by Catherine Butterfield.

As with all reunions, this one will definitely not go as planned, and the characters — each with a separate arc — has a different expectation about this reunion. It’s the duplicity, disillusionment, disappointment, and godsends that makes this play — whether in a dorm room, a car, or at a hospital — a rich character study, as well as an onion-peeling mystery.

Amanda Weier and Jack David Sharpe. Photo by Catherine Butterfield.

Ms. Banker nails the panicky, foul-mouthed, resilient, unrefined Kelly, hitting the bullseye throughout the two-act. As smaht-mouthed as Kelly is, Banker gives the alcohol-loving, tacky-dressing mom authentic pride, love and respect. And man oh man is she ever a hoot. Ms. Weier plays Maureen more stoically, but in her hands, you get the feeling that she can vacillate between politely playing church bingo one moment, and beating the shit out of you with her purse the next. Mr. Sharpe is a fascinating actor, as he hides his emotional cards well while playing the son Sean like a wisecracking Dead End Kid. As the spoiled college girl and newly discovered step-sister, Ms. Kors convincingly goes from nice to smarmy, even as her face indicates that she has something up her sleeve (we want to be super surprised). Ms. Mayeda is perfectly cast as the Oriental Chinese Asian filmmaker wannabe, but needs to settle in with organic choices and a believable asthma attack.

Jack David Sharpe and Kacey Mayeda. Photo by Catherine Butterfield.

Look, this is a no-frills cost-cutting production, but the team — scenic designer Jan Munroe, lighting designer Gavan Wyrick, sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett, costume designer Mylette Nora — led by the wonderful actors create a sense of place perfectly. Butterfield knows the city and these people quite well, and her staging suits the work — a game of high stakes. A bit of comedy is dropped in the second act, and I’m not so sure that was necessary. In fact, some dramaturgical issues ensue, and I warrant to say that the multifaceted Ms. Butterfield would be wise to bring on a director to help shape the show. Regardless of any quibbles, I left the theater entirely satisfied. Highly Recommended.

Tisha Terrasini Banker and Alice Kors. Photo by Frank Ishman.

To the Bone
Open Fist Theatre Company
Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave
Fri at 8; Sun at 7 (dark Oct. 29); Sat at 2 (Oct. 3 & 29)
ends on November 5, 2022
for tickets ($15-30), call 323.882.6912 or visit Open Fist

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