by RS Bailey
“Sukie and Sue: Their Story” by Michael John LaChiusa is billed as a new comedy “based on actual events.” What those events actually were is never mentioned. It is a comic horror story about a Raggedy Ann doll possessed by a demon that harasses two pot smoking nurses.
Suki (Lindsay Broad) is a pediatric nurse and gets to play with babies all day long while her roommate Sue (Rae Foster) works in the burn unit and is surrounded by suffering and pain. Sue smokes all the pot, provided by Sukie’s boyfriend Sal (Lenny Jacobsen), even though she doesn’t have the cash to pay for it. Sue’s birthday has just passed and she received a Raggedy Ann doll from her mother (Mary-Beth Manning). The doll becomes possessed by a demon posing as a ghost and is discovered by Barbara, a psychic (Mackenzie Phillips), who is introduced to the girls by Sal’s pot connection Kelly (Nick Ballard). Father Canary (Eddie Driscoll) is unable to exorcise the demon.
“Sukie and Sue: Their Story” is highlighted by very sharp and strong performances. Led by Broad and Foster as the roommates who subtly handle the changes their characters go through, the entire cast shines. Phillips is especially endearing as the Barbara, the psychic who can’t remember anybody’s name. All in all the play has its chilling moments and, keeps the audience chuckling. Nurse Teri is played by Elena Campbell-Martinez. The entire cast is very engaging.
Director Kirsten Sanderson keeps the action moving in a highly cinematic style and there is never a dull moment. She has guided her cast expertly and delivered a fluid production that always keeps the audience involved.
While playwright LaChuisa displays a solid sense of modern dialogue, even if it is a bit stereotypical, the play is ultimately unfulfilling because it rarely rises above being a campfire horror story. There is little point of view other than a weak comment regarding the inefficacy of religion. Despite the strong performances, the supporting characters are one-dimensional and while the literary aspects of the script are well-balanced, the situations are formulaic. There are several chilling moments when the demon makes itself known but it’s not enough to save the evening. All in all it is horror-comedy lite.
Producers Matthew Graber, Daniel Henning, and Noah Wyle have put together a strong physical package. The design team includes an esthetic and multi-functional set by Eric Broadwater, creative lighting by Stephanette Smith, good costumes by Bethany Jane Bohatila, fine special effects by Matt Falletta, and sound that can send shudders down your spine by Warren Davis. The original music, written by the playwright, adds some laughs.
Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through June 3. Admission ranges from $26-$30 for regular performances with tickets available at www.TheBlank.com, or by calling (323) 661-9827. The Blank’s 2nd Stage Theatre is located at 6500 Santa Monica Boulevard (at Wilcox), in Hollywood. Secured valet parking is available for evening performances.
Photo credits: Michael Geniac