“Penelope” Reviewed by Rose Desena

This Week In Theater

By Rose Desena

Does man try to destroy his own existence? It might sound like an existential question however, it’s one which Edna Walsh hit’s his audience with head on. Greed, power, and the need to be a winner might sound like a movie title but is it just a description of man’s inherent nature?

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I love Irish playwrights, and Edna Walsh is one of my favorites. We are so lucky that Rouge Machine Theatre has taken an interest in his plays. His works can be esoteric and if not presented skillfully might come off as bazaar and zany fodder. The message can easily be lost if not in the hands of a brilliant director like John Perrin Flynn. He seems to have a good understanding of how best to spotlight the rhythmic poetry of the dialogue while coherently staging the piece. His connection with the writing, which is imperative, presents audiences with grist for meaning and rich discussions after the performance.

 

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Rogue Machine’s successful run of Edna Walsh’s “The New Electric Ballroom” was a multi-award winner and their fresh staging of “Penelope” is just as fantastic.

 

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It took a lot of my concentration to see through the playfulness and silliness of this rather startling but stellar production. We are in an empty swimming pool, well the cast is anyway. Really, it’s quite an amazing set design by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz; every detail considered including a drain in the floor. We could have an all night discussion just on the significance of putting the last four men left on earth in a dried up neglected swimming pool. Above the swimming pool in her radiance, appears a woman who summons the men to compete for her love by using words. Their inability to do this without turning violent is amusing and downright shocking.

 

Although the story is profoundly deep, it is not without humor. We get to see Rouge Machine regular, Ron Bottitta (as Dunne), strut around in his bikini while rubbing suntan oil on his protruding beer belly. It’s a sight you might not want to miss…and will never forget. He is not just a pretty face, when he breaks into his poetic monologues, his British Shakespeare training shines through. He was a perfectly cast.

 

Richard Fancy is magnificent as the old guy (Fitz) who holds his own in the pit of bulls, and tries to woo Penelope with style sans pretension. Scott Sheldon (as Burns) is hysterical, as the mild-mannered guy who has a little secret that he doesn’t want to cop to and for a reason that secret is never confirmed. He is so striking while prancing around the stage to a familiar jingle while changing party hats. That leaves us with Brian Letscher (as Quinn), the hard body ego with nice legs. Letscher’s narcissistic character is amusing and very fitting here in LA. He is a masterful magician and tries to win Penelope with his skills of deception and trickery.

 

Although at times you might scratch your head through this production, it is a clear message and one that is very current with our time.

 

A little hint, I suggest you sit toward the back; I think there you will get the full effect of the stage set. Stephanie Kerley Schwartz creates a brilliant atmosphere that allows the audience to escape into Walsh’s world.

 

This is a MUST SEE; I loved it.

 

“PENELOPE”

 

Runs,  8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm on Sundays through August 10, 2014.

ROGUE MACHINE is located at 5041 W. Pico Blvd., LA, CA 90019.  Tickets are $30. Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com

 

 

 


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