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