Theater Review: MERCURY (Road Theatre in North Hollywood)

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by Michael M. Landman-Karny on January 20, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


Steve Yockey‘s work in the theatre world undeniably polarizes audiences, eliciting fervent admiration from some and equally passionate disdain from others. As for myself, I am firmly ensconced in the camp of his admirers. His unique approach to storytelling, marked by an intricate blend of the fantastical and the real, resonates profoundly for me. Yockey’s flair for infusing his narratives with a vibrant, almost surreal quality, while simultaneously anchoring them in deeply human experiences, sets his work apart in the contemporary theatre landscape. In this critic’s eyes, Yockey’s contributions to the stage are not just noteworthy but essential, offering a fresh, dynamic voice in the tapestry of modern drama.

Andrea Flowers and Meeghan Holaway

As in his previous plays, Mercury delves into the lives of seemingly ordinary characters, only to disrupt their mundane existence with elements of the supernatural, reminiscent of an R-rated version of Stranger Things, stripped of its pop-culture references and pseudoscientific elements but with misanthropy and levels of violence that are reminiscent of Martin McDonagh’s most disturbing stageworks (A Behanding in Spokane, Hangmen, The Beauty Queen of Leenane).

The play centers around Pamela, portrayed by Meeghan Holaway, a suburban housewife embroiled in a clandestine affair with her neighbor Heather (Andrea Flowers), who is also married. When Heather decides to end their relationship, Pamela’s response teeters on the edge of revenge.

Justin Lawrence Barnes and Christina Carlisi

Meanwhile, Olive (Christina Carlisi) grapples with the misdemeanors of Brian (Danny Lee Gomez), who lives with his lover Nick (Justin Lawrence Barnes), Olive’s gay friend upstairs, juxtaposing her seemingly trivial problems with Pamela’s more dire situation. The narrative weaves through these interconnected lives, leading to a mysterious curiosity shop run by Alicia (Gloria Ines) and Sam (Billy Baker), which serves as a nexus for the play’s supernatural elements.

Billy Baker and Gloria Ines

In the deft hands of Yockey, the stage of the Road Theatre comes alive with characters that pulsate with authenticity and nuance. Take, for instance, Pamela, the suburban housewife, whose intricacies are etched with such precision that she transcends the archetype. Yockey’s mastery in character development particularly shines in the interplay between Pamela and figures like Heather and Brian, weaving a tapestry of interactions that are as flawed as they are deeply human. The dialogue crackles with a sharp, biting wit, infused with a dark humor that resonates with the undercurrents of contemporary life. Furthermore, the play’s rhythm is meticulously calibrated, maintaining a dance between tension and catharsis that holds the audience in rapt attention, a testament to Yockey’s storytelling acumen.

Justin Lawrence Barnes and Danny Lee Gomez

Director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky exhibits a remarkable finesse, orchestrating performances that straddle the realms of hyperrealism and comedy with a deft touch. Her guidance of a pitch-perfect ensemble results in portrayals that are as convincing as they are humorous, showcasing a delicate balance rarely achieved on local stages. Tobolowsky confronts the script’s formidable hurdles with aplomb, adeptly navigating the complex interplay between the tangible and the ethereal. Her skill is particularly evident in the seamless execution of the script’s more elaborate scenes, where her visionary approach transforms potential budgetary obstacles into moments of captivating theatricality.

Gloria Ines and Christina Carlisi

The ingenuity of Katrina Coulourides’ three-set rotating stage design, complemented by Glenn and Linda Brown‘s intricate puppetry and Jenna Bergstraesser‘s aptly chosen costumes, immerses the audience in Yockey’s unique vision. The horror is further accentuated by David B. Marling‘s sound design and Ben Rock‘s visually arresting projections. Brian Graves‘ authentic fight choreography adds a visceral element to the play, warranting the play’s 18 and over guidance for violence.

Meeghan Holaway and Danny Lee Gomez

Yockey’s pen wields the precision of a master watchmaker, each line and scene assembled with the exacting care of Swiss craftsmanship. His inventive spirit electrifies the stage, turning the theatre into a canvas for cinematic spectacle, reminiscent of the audacious charm of B-movie adventures. The physical transformation of space, from the traditional to the transcendent, is a testament to the directorial acumen of Tobolowsky and the creative team, who have skillfully brought Yockey’s visionary tableau to life. Their collaborative triumph marks not just a theatrical achievement, but a celebration of imaginative storytelling at its most captivating.

photos by Lizzy Kimball

The Road Theatre Company
NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2; Thurs at 8 (Feb 8 & 15)
ends on February 18, 2024 EXTENDED to March 2, 2024
for tickets, call 818.761.8838 or visit Road Theatre

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