It is 8:45 pm on a Friday night on Laurel Canyon Blvd. I sit in front of the Eclectic Company Theatre, awaiting its evening of original monologues, staring giddily across the street at Shakey’s and wonder why I am attending a play that starts so late (and why it starts so late). I DO NOT wonder why I’m not over at Shakey’s. (Though its namesake makes me giggle most emphatically, my last visit was a close encounter of the more than dyspeptic kind and at this point, I’m going to leave it at that…)
I enter the lobby only to be greeted by fellow Eclectic Company Theatre member Laura. She informs me that, had I not obtained a press pass, the cost of tonight’s performance would have been, “pay what you can”. Moreover wine is free and I can help myself. Wellll, don’t mind if I do… I am enjoying this production already…
The presentation’s pre-show music sports all tunes 80s; Gary Neuman, The Cars, oh…and Moon (Unit) Zappa’s “Valley Girl”. Talk about an elapsed blast from the past! What I would give to hear it converted into a monologue; “Yakkin’ to the Max”.
‘I’m sooo shure I’m gonna talk funny for five minutes and argue that I’m not talkin’ funny…’
But I shall not be graced with this possibility and it’s probably for the best, as the evening’s monologues were written by members of Eclectic Voices, Eclectic Company Theatre’s writer alliance and, aside from tonight’s pre-show jammage, Moon Unit never really much scanned on their radar—I’m so shure…
The music diminishes and we brace (the writers in particular) for our first monologue, “Writer’s Block” by Mark Bate. Oh the irony! Endearingly comedic, gap-toothed actor Paul Duffy enters in the direction of a desk with nothing on it (though we are probably supposed to use our imaginations and envision a computer or some sort of typing device).
“Why, why is this happening? I don’t understand why I’m having such problems with my writing,” he bellyaches as I let out a vociferous guffaw, not only at the comedic delivery but the overly expository tenor of the introductory line. Duffy then goes on to lament all possible distractions not currently available to him, “The Internet’s out, the library’s closed. Why are there so many holidays?” He calls his wife, ostensibly in the adjacent room, several times but she never answers because well…we are watching an evening of monologues.
Enjoyable as Duffy’s performance is, I can’t help but wish there were more specifics in this piece, i.e. what exactly he does for a living, how his wife feels about these illiterate jags and, most importantly, what—what is he writing? What if it was something really weird like a shopper’s guide or an IKEA Instruction manual? “Hell, even I don’t find this chair comfortable. How am I going to make the description believable to the furniture consuming public, let alone depict how it all goes together?—I’m a fraud I tellya—a fraud!!!”
The next monologue that really catches my attention is “Linda” by Laura Lee Bahr performed in a most touching and sincere manner by Carolyn Wilson as a woman scorned by a cheating husband, redeeming herself through vintage commerce. “He brought her to my home to shove my face in it. [But that’s when I invented] ‘Herstory’: Clothes and objects that meant something…some stories would make them more valuable …touching Herstory and her things … That store became my life …a boutique for the precious and precocious …from Emily Dickinson’s writing box to the rocks in the pockets of Virginia Wolfe …there is so much pain in this world but it doesn’t mean it has to be bad…”
“Just the Three of Us” by Ken Patton explores the relationship of a man and two women. Fatefully thrown together via the same high school class schedule year after year, destiny has converted this happenstance into a lifelong friendship. The monologue opens just before all three are about to meet at a bar after many years. The male of the trio, played rivetingly by Fuz Edwards, recounts their lives up until now; their most recent challenges and tragedies all the while affirming that they will always be each other’s constants, particularly after one of the trio’s women has recently lost half her family to suicide. But will they form a family of their own in the most 21st Century of traditions after this evening? “Tonight all we need, all we’ll ever need is just the three of us…”
In “Random Acts of Randomness” by Jeff Folschinsky, a hilariously Southern-drawled Tyler Tanner waxes stoically incredulous that poisonous snakes that slither through sewer pipes, into toilet bowls are not mythical animals like “alligators in the sewers or Republican Socialism”.
“My cousin found Aunt Jenny sittin’ on the toilet …with a surprised look on her face (though that’s a common occurrence) dead as a doornail. …Truth be told, I felt sorry for the snake. Aunt Jenny was on a high fiber diet.” This monologue provided for the hardest laugh I had all night. Folschinsky’s writing, as always, never disappoints.
Why is it the sauce, lettuce and tomato on a fast food sandwich never line up right?—And why…why is it they almost never spread the “special sauce” on the bun for most optimal absorption and then stack the tomato on top of a convex leaf of crisp lettuce? This is exactly what actress Sarah Allyn Bauer contemplates in Chelsea Sutton’s humorous and thought provoking “The Graveyard Shift”. In the midst of working the 3 am shift at a fast food drive up window, Bauer frustratedly reassesses her twenty-nine-year-old, scholastically indebted, existence whilst stifling a screaming fit adjacent to the deep fat fryer. Feeling stuck between two buns, she stops just short of that while marshaling all hope and resourcefulness. As a start, she also decides she will stack the ingredients on her sandwiched creations any way she sees fit, despite what the corporate manual dictates, “Bottom bun, secret sauce, tomato, lettuce, top bun!”
Other monologues include, “Well Said” by Taylor Ashbrook, performed by Ann Simmons wherein a woman who thinks she has nothing to say, at least not effectively, may, by default of above said monologue, have just disproved her point. “The Reluctant Satanist” examines a newly ordained acolyte’s, played humorously by Sean M. Kozma, frustration at the hypocrisy and inaccuracy at some of the terms, definitions and traditions surrounding devil summoning as he attempts to conjure said entity himself—albeit extremely wishy washily. In “The New Pilgrims” by Niki Blumberg, played by Taylor Ashbrook a newly hyped housing development in Baja California may not be the paradise it’s cracked up to be. “Magic Necro” by Sean M. Kozma features a very cute and dreamy vampire-type-creature played refreshingly matter-of-factly by Jonathon Trent attempting to discredit ridiculous stereotypes about his species. Really, they’re just like you and me…
The remaining dates for “We’re no Heroes” are Friday, January 24th and Saturday January 25th at 9 pm (zombie time). The entire program runs about an hour and ten minutes. There is no intermission. It is performed at the Eclectic Company Theatre; 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd. (between Chandler and Magnolia—right across from the gag-inducing Shakey’s), Valley Village, CA 91607. For reservations please call (818) 508-3003.