‘El Nino’ Justin Tanner’s Hysterically Funny, Insightful New Play – Dysfunction Has Never Been This Much Fun


Photo by John Penn Flynn

I have seen practically every one of Justin Tanner’s plays, including “Pot Mom,” “Teen Girl,” “Wife Swappers,” and “Day Drinkers, just to name a few, and I am a major fan. His plays are about the human condition–the sadness that lies beneath. At the same time, Justin’s work is also extremely funny, inspiring and just plain brilliant. “El Nino,” his first play in over five years, proves just that.

The story, which seems in some ways autobiographical, is about a woman named Colleen (the amazing Maile Flanagan), a science fiction writer suffering from writer’s block, who returns to her family home where she is obviously unwelcome. Besides writer’s block, Colleen also suffers from several comical physical ailments, which you notice as soon as she hobbles across the stage. Her walk alone will have you falling out of your seat laughing.

Poor Colleen, her boyfriend has kicked her out and she has no where to go. So, to the dismay of her parents, June (Danielle Kennedy), and Harvey (Nick Ullett), and her sister, Andrea (Melissa Denton), Colleen plants herself on the couch and makes herself at home.

From here on, we meet a set of profoundly dysfunctional characters, including neighbor, Kevin (Joe Keyes) who carries around his 17 year-old dying cat because he can’t bear to put him down, even though it’s obvious the kitty is barely alive, and Todd, (Jonathan Palmer), a veterinarian who specializes in euthanasia.

Todd is Andrea’s new boyfriend, and he  doesn’t seem to mind that she verbally abuses him every chance she gets. Of course, Todd manages to give it right back, not to her, but to Colleen. Throughout it all, you can’t help but to root for Colleen to get her act together and find happiness. In fact, you feel the same about all of Justin’s characters. They may be flawed, but they are definitely endearing.

“El Nino,” directed perfectly by Lisa James is… a “must see” for anyone who likes to laugh, appreciates great writing  or just wants to watch six actors do some very fine work.

‘El Nino’ opened at the Rogue Machine Theatre at The Met, located at 1089 North Oxford Avenue, Los Angeles 90029 on February 24 and closes on April 2, 2018. It plays: Mondays at 8:30, Saturdays at 8:30pm and Sundays at 3:00pm. Ticket prices are $40.00  To purchase visit Rogue Machine Theatre’s website or call 855-585-5185


Joan Alperin

About Joan Alperin

Joan was born in Brooklyn and spent many years working as an actress in New York City. Even though she traveled extensively, Joan couldn't imagine living anywhere else.. Well one day, she met someone at a party who regaled her with stories about living in L. A. specifically Topanga Canyon. A few weeks later she found herself on an airplane bound for Los Angeles. Joan immediately fell in love with the town and has been living here for the last twenty years and yes, she even made it to Topanga Canyon, where she now resides, surrounded by nature, deer, owls and all kinds of extraordinary alien creatures.. Joan continued acting, but for the last several years (besides reviewing plays and film) she has been writing screenplays. Joan was married to a filmmaker who created the cult classic films, (way before she knew him) Faces of Death. As a result of his huge following, they created a funny movie review show entitled Two Jews on Film, where Joan and her husband, John would review movies and rate them with bagels You can see their reviews by going to youtube.com/twojewsonfilm. Although it's now only one Jew - Joan is occasionally joined by her beautiful Pekingnese and Japanese Chin.
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