High Praise for Lucid by Proxy
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Into the Woods · March On, Dream Normal · 2007 Fundraiser · Multiverse · Asymmetry (2006) · String · Asymmetry (2005) · Psalms of a Questionable Nature · i r l (in real life) (2005) · Quickening · Spare Parts & Cynic · School of Jesus Fish (2003) · IRL (In Real Life) (2002) · Cotillion · School of Jesus Fish (2001) · Jack Cracker · SAP, boy meets tree · Something Persists

Into the Woods (October 2010)

"...From the drive, to the parking, to inside the warehouse itself, the location can't help but steal the show. Remsberg and set designer, Jeanine Nicholas, have placed the stage near one corner of the space, draping vines from iron girders, using metal walkways and other structural elements to create the distressed atmosphere of the woods. Staircases and added ramps allow actors to reach the raised stage, with audience members seated "boxing ring style" on two sides. Jim Harney's stark lighting furthers the tone, directing the audience's attention by his use of contrast and shadows.

The fairy tales that intertwine in this musical are familiar; Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel are all stories we've heard before, yet this musical does not pretend that all endings are happy. When you get what you want, you may not want what you've got...and then what do you do? Wait for the second act and you'll see.

Into The Woods is one of Sondheim's most difficult scores and musical director Richard Berent seamlessly blends live acoustic piano and pre-recorded orchestrations to provide the accompaniment for Remsberg's industrial setting. Fellow musicians will understand the enormous amount of work that has gone into his task, in addition to rehearsing a cast of twenty in just a few short weeks.

Standouts among the ensemble include Jennifer Malenke as Cinderella. Even if there was no other reason to see this show (but there is), you should see it for her sparkling soprano spinning out across the warehouse space as she portrays the down-to-earth princess-in-the-making.

The same can be said of Zachary Ford, one half of the comedic duo of princes (along with the dashing David Nett) who leaps on and off the stage in search of damsels in distress. The agony they express over the one thing they want that is out of reach is absolutely delicious, and Ford's ability to sing through a vocal phrase shows off his gorgeous tenor voice beautifully.

The best one-liners, of course, go to Little Red (Shannon Nelson), who nonchalantly pops them out one after another. She finds herself both in the story and listening to the story, as narrated by a mysterious man, (General Hospital's Anthony Geary). Geary moves easily in and out of the tale, at times casually observing the other characters and at others, thrusting himself into the story to assist the Baker (David Pevsner). When tragedy finally strikes the mysterious man, the rest of the characters must learn to find their own way in a world that no longer resembles the familiar fairy tale they once knew.

And finally, a cow named Milky White (Johnny Cannizzaro) proves that, without any words, all you really need to do to steal a scene is quietly go about your business.

    - Ellen Dostal, Musicals in LA

March On, Dream Normal (May 2008)

It must be said: Theater is doing a heckuva better job than Hollywood at creating meaningful dramas about the Iraq war. Maybe it's because the under-the-radar nature of theater companies lets them take risks and make bold statements. Or maybe it's because the theater, which has always valued ideas over adrenaline, is a natural medium for such a complicated subject.

Jeanette Scherrer's "March On, Dream Normal" is a deceptively modest account of one soldier's failure to assimilate into civilian life. Twice stop-lossed Jim Krupa (Brett Nichols) is suffering from nightmares while recuperating at his parents' house in suburban St. Louis. Over the course of a few weeks, he seeks treatment at a VA hospital, applies for a job at the local firehouse and hangs out with his pregnant sister-in-law (Shannon Nelson).

Produced by Lucid by Proxy, "March On" takes a naturalistic approach to quotidian life, allowing banal moments to take precedence over big dramatic scenes. A sociological meditation on blue-collar Americana, the play evokes a world of bowling, Budweiser and bargain basement fashion. The set design -- a cozy, kitschy living room -- lets us eavesdrop on private family moments while also maintaining a respectful distance.

Directed with detached serenity by the playwright and Patty Ramsey, the story accumulates an unexpected power. Jim's worsening trauma is embodied by a ghostly drill sergeant (Luke Massy) who has taken up residence in his bedroom. His spectral presence suggests a kind of haunting -- the war is no longer just a faraway abstraction but a domestic issue as well.

...the play's anti-dramatic aesthetic successfully avoids most cliches, achieving a documentary-like objectivity and an almost spiritual level of intimacy.

    - David Ng, Los Angeles Times

Anti-war dramas are plentiful, but the quiet intensity of Jeannette Scherrer's achingly poignant play feels strikingly original. Fashioning a piece that's equal parts Arthur Miller message play and naturalistic kitchen-sink drama, the playwright paints a compelling portrait of ordinary citizens of Middle America who discover that a war fought on the other side of the globe has unexpected ill effects on their laid-back blue-collar existences. Co-directors Scherrer and Patty Ramsey capture the subtly devastating power of this wonderfully nuanced new work.

When recently discharged soldier Jim (Brett Nichols) returns from his duty in Iraq to the cozy St. Louis domicile of his parents (Marie Del Marco and Jack Kandel), he appears relieved to be in the relaxing and nurturing milieu of his mother's quilt-making, family small talk, and pizza-and-beer suppers. But the bullying drill sergeant (Luke Massy) who inhabits Jim's dreams soon becomes a constant presence, lingering in the ex-G.I.'s psyche, forcing Jim to relive horrific memories of battlefield violence. When Jim's brother (James Paul Xavier), a National Guardsman who doesn't want to go to Iraq, and the brother's estranged wife (Shannon Nelson) arrive, resentments between the brothers surface. Long-hidden secrets about a deceased uncle emerge, and Jim's festering rage and paranoia manifest themselves at unexpected moments.

The directors masterfully spin out mundane details of bucolic life that crackle with subtext; the tension is always a quarter-inch beneath the surface. Nichols gives an inspired multilayered portrayal of a gentle and goodhearted guy who struggles mightily to suppress the demons inside -- the mental and emotional toll of his terrifying wartime experiences. Nelson is sublime as a woman who tries to find a modicum of happiness in a family suffering from emotional shell shock. Kandel and Marco give beautifully understated performances that become richer as the stakes rise for the family. Massy and Xavier are likewise excellent, as is Skip Pipo as a hospital psychiatrist. David Nett adds welcome comic relief, evoking raucous laughter in his role as a boorish friend. A wonderfully atmospheric production design further enhances this thought-provoking production. The haunting imagery lingers long after the final fadeout.

    - Les Spindle, Backstage West ("Critic's Pick")

Well served by its intimate venue, Jeanette Scherrer's slice-of-life drama communicates the torments of a soldier newly returned from Iraq. Home in St. Louis with his parents -- played with persuasive nuance by Jack Kandel and Marie Del Marco -- Jim (Brett Nichols) suffers horrible recurring nightmares in which he recalls how his former sergeant brutally commanded him to run down a child in the road. Insane with remorse, he seeks help through the VA, where an overscheduled and desensitized military doctor (Skip Pipo) prescribes diazepam and sends him on his way. Jim's mental anguish mounts, leading to an altercation in a bar that costs him the firefighting job he desperately desires. Co-directed at an unhurried pace by Scherrer and Patty Ramsey, the play traipses familiar territory but proves incisive in the end. True to life, it has no pat finale. Several family-at-home scenes drag but -- in this tiny theater, where the audience and playing areas overlap -- that same slowness also contributes to a sense of heightened realism. As Jim's pregnant sister-in-law, who romanticizes his unassuming machismo, the perky Shannon Nelson is lively and appealing... Set designer David Nett makes excellent use of a small space. Costumes (Nelson), props/set dressings (James Paul Xavier) and sound (Ryan Poulson) also add colorful ambiance.

    - Deborah Klugman, LAWeekly (LAWeekly "GO" Pick)

In the extreme intimacy of the tiny Paul Richards' Theater Place, Jeanette Scherrer's script and a dedicated Lucid by Proxy ensemble bring us face to face with the psychological crisis of a returning Iraq vet. It's an uncommon sensation in a civilian culture that hasn't been forced to see what's happening. The young Midwesterner in question (Brett Nichols) is supported by his plain-spoken parents (Jack Kandel, Marie DelMarco), but he can't shake the image of his sadistic sergeant (embodied by different actors at different performances), even as he tries to get a firefighter job, spars with his National Guardsman brother (James Paul Xavier), flirts with his sister-in-law (Shannon Nelson), and solicits help from a VA doctor. Scherrer's style is radically understated, compared to the theatricality of the Latino Theater's recent Iraq vet drama Melancholia, but it's no less effective... Seeing it in the same week that John McCain opposed expanded GI Bill benefits made it unexpectedly topical.

    - Don Shirley, LA CityBeat ("Critic's Choice")

In a day when "Support Our Troops" has about as much meaning as "Have a Nice Day," this quiet, poignant story reminds us of the responsibility we have to our Iraq veterans...

The full cast gives riveting performances, creating a believable ensemble for this moving story. Brett Nichols is stunning as the tormented soldier, and Marie del Marco and Jack Kandel are standouts as the compassionate, overwhelmed parents of the war hero. In particular, Marie's casual style and subtle nuances accommodate the intimate atmosphere of the venue. Shannon Nelson is brilliant in her portrayal of Barbara, the pregnant wife of Jim's brother.

Hats off to Directors Patty Ramsey and Jeanette Scherrer for their creative set and quiet sensitivity to this heartbreaking reality of the tolls of war on...all of us.

Let's all support this creative theater company.

    - Debi Hall, NotesFromHollywood.com

2007 Fundraiser Concert (November 2007)

The seven-year-old Lucid by Proxy theatre company, which focuses on the development of original works, threw itself a spectacular fundraising party Nov. 19 at the Hayworth Theatre. The evening's entertainment as conceived and helmed by actor-director-vocal coach Calvin Remsberg (perhaps best remembered for his exemplary supporting performances in The Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd). Several of Remsberg's accomplished students, plus other local performers, offered a marvelous cabaret evening.

Among the showstopping moments were ever-vivacious Jessica Pennington's dazzling "Cabaret" and her sidesplitting rendition of "Gooch's Song" from Mame, Lucid co-founder Shannon Nelson's bravura delivery of a great comic song from the little-known musical Henry, Sweet Henry (based on the Peter Sellers film The World of Henry Orient), a dynamic rendition by Will Colyer (Eric LaRue, Town Without Pity) of a song cut from Company, and Peter Welkin's powerful take on the title song from Kander and Ebb's Kiss of the Spider Woman. Also impressive were Dane Biren, Suzanne Jamieson, Melissa Lyons, Judy Norton and Lucid by Proxy co-founders Jeanette Scherrer, David Nett, and James Paul Xavier.

Another highlight featured teh entire roster of performers in a sneak peek at Spare Parts & Cynic, a musical the company previously presented that will return in 2008 with revisions. The golden-voiced Remsberg gave a smashing interpretation of the inspirational song "Take the Moment" from Do I Hear a Waltz?, a fitting testament to the occasion. Ed Martel offered first-rate piano accompaniment.

    - Les Spindle, Backstage West (Backstage West "Stage Notes" Column)

Multiverse (July 2007)

Rick Robinson's futuristic play is a romantic comedy with dark elements, exploring dehumanization and emotional isolation in an era when everyday life is dominated by sophisticated electronic gadgetry. Director Patty Ramsey and an accomplished cast achieve an enthralling and thought-provoking rendition of Robinson's witty seriocomic work.

Several decades from the present, computer-systems architect Frederick (David Nett) resides in a high-tech apartment building. He's comfortable limiting his human interaction to talking with and viewing his parents (voices of James Paul Xavier and Sasha Harris) over a combination telephone-video-screen device and accepting daily food deliveries from a man (the amusing Jerome Anthony Hawkins) who serves the building residents from a steel-encased dumbwaiter, never entering their apartments. Paranoid about anyone entering his domain, Frederick dreads his government-mandated courtship of the computer-selected Louisa (Shannon Nelson). He's required to take her in for three months as a possible love match, adhering to a law devised to ensure continued procreation of the human species. The conflicts begin immediately upon Louisa's arrival. The obsessively self-centered Frederick lacks the social skills to share pleasantries with the deliveryman, let alone to form a romantic bond with his assertive houseguest.

Ramsey expertly navigates tonal shifts among spirited humor, mild poignancy, and utter despair. Nett and Nelson likewise project an impressive range of emotions. Nett is alternately hilarious and heart-rending as a man desperately struggling to live in denial--attempting to sabotage warm feelings at every turn. Nelson is a master at deadpan line deliveries, and she makes a moving shift from a woman who initially seems to have it together to an emotionally devastated soul. Robinson's script makes the convincing point that the impersonality of communications in the cyberspace age can affect people in different ways--all to ill effect.

Nett's minimalist scenic design generates an appropriately chilling feel, augmented by Xavier's clever props and set-dressing. The sound design, by Ramsey and Robinson, likewise enhances the mood. Though trimming could eliminate repetitive points, Robinson's script is a winner, and the Lucid By Proxy company graces it with a superb premiere production.

    - Les Spindle, Backstage West (Backstage West "Critic's Pick")

Sharp invention sparks Rick Robinson's future-shocked saga of government-mandated romance. Actors David Nett and Shannon Nelson have an active chemistry that upgrades this intimate Lucid by Proxy staging beyond the odd systemic blip.

When Frederick met Louisa

The premise of "Multiverse" looks forward a few decades to a society controlled by the state through personal isolation and digital intrusion. The kicker is that it's a romantic comedy, about a reclusive brainiac and the mercurial artist foisted upon him by federal decree. That the clashes of the form come up fresh is because of playwright Rick Robinson, whose sharp invention sparks this future-shocked saga of government-mandated romance.

Successful computer programmer Frederick Gauss (the adept David Nett) hasn't left his voice-activated apartment for the toxic outdoors in ages. According to law, on his 30th birthday Frederick has to try out a partner.

After video-phoned homilies from his parents (voiced by James Paul Xavier and Sasha Harris) and encouragement from his food service provider (Jerome Anthony Hawkins), Frederick is aghast when his dating-service pick arrives in the human dumb-waiter. Temperamental and unpredictable, earthy Louisa Hadamard (the excellent Shannon Nelson) is anathema to Frederick's sterile viewpoint. Naturally, her random impulses are just what he needs to de-Gauss.

In director Patty Ramsey's intimate Lucid by Proxy staging, "Multiverse" honors the comic curveballs Robinson lobs between his characters. Nett and Nelson, married in real life, have an active chemistry that they play against to great advantage, while the genial Hawkins is admirably understated.

Although the Act 2 decor could stand more disarray, the designs are creative, and Jeanette Scherrer's interstitial apartment voice-overs have the proper dryness. Such flair upgrades "Multiverse" beyond the odd systemic blips. The totalitarian setting feels more like a conceptual hook than a motivating factor, and the climax veers somewhat abruptly into melodrama. Yet the underlying circuitry is engagingly original, which sums up this thinking person's date show.

    - David C. Nichols, Los Angeles Times (LA Times "Recommended" Pick)

Set a few decades from now, Rick Robinson's thoughtful romantic comedy depicts a reclusive computer programmer (David Nett) for a government-run matchmaking service who's forced to live with a woman (Shannon Nelson) for three months when he turns 30. Amusing reflections on virtual reality vs. actual reality.

    - Don Shirley, LA City Beat

Asymmetry (October 2006)

There's a knock at the door

Opportunity knocks in Rick Robinson's "Asymmetry." Is the person at the threshold someone you want to admit into your life? Three acquainting or reacquainting couples confront this dilemma in Lucid by Proxy's taut, emotionally true presentation.

Opportunity knocks in Rick Robinson's relationship drama "Asymmetry," but once the door has been opened, no one seems to know what to do next. That's because the hard part still remains: Determining whether the person at the threshold is someone you want to admit into your life.

Lucid by Proxy presented a version of this play in a larger theater a year ago as part of EdgeFest. Robinson has since refined the material, which is now being presented in the company's usual Silver Lake performance space. The place doesn't seem much larger than a living room, which is perfect, because this play takes place in a living room and is meant to be experienced up close.

The first knock at the door unites Julius (Alan Loayza) and Priscilla (Shannon Nelson). They are one of three couples occupying the room, though none is aware of the others. Next come Miguel (Alex Fernandez) and Sandy (Melody Doyle), then Maggie (Kyra Zagorsky) and Cody (David Nett). Two of the pairs are online acquaintances meeting for the first time; the other is reconnecting after a long estrangement.

The participants, in each instance, feel damaged and/or unlovable. Things go awry; unkind things are said; tears are shed. As co-directed by Robinson and Patty Ramsey, everything looks and sounds absolutely real.

The peeping-Tom audience witnesses the baring not of bodies (though the sounds of lovemaking reverberate from another room) but of souls.

"Men are looking for symmetry," Maggie says at one point, quoting a study about the bodily proportions that men look for in women. But Cody, who's deeper and truer than Maggie realizes, comes back with: "Maybe ... we're all just looking for balance."

    - Daryl H. Miller, LA Times
    LA Times Rating: RECOMMENDED
    LA Times Reader Rating: RAVE

String (April 2006)

Romance finely delivered in "String"

Lucid by Proxy has got the right idea. The theater company presents new plays in unfussy surroundings (in this case, the tiny Paul E. Richards Theater Place in Silver Lake), showcasing emerging writers and young actors. At the moment, "String," a romantic confection by first-time playwright Jessica Lind, proves that a light touch can strike exactly the right note.

"String" is about the mysterious romantic connections that bind us, and why a young woman may fall for the suitor who, on paper at least, is all wrong for her.

Raina is an aspiring poet, so what's on paper matters, and when love comes knocking on the door -- literally, in the guise of the pizza man -- she can't recognize it. But then, Ryan isn't simply a pizza man; he has aspirations of his own, to modernize his uncle's faltering fertilizing company.

Although Ryan pursues Raina ardently, her head is turned by a more appropriate potential boyfriend, a scholar of medieval literature (David Nett), who anoints Raina as a suitable helpmate for his academic career. In the meantime, Raina's sister, the tearful (and ironically named) Joy (Shannon Nelson), feels neglected in her marriage to a dull bandage salesman (Richard Wylie).

It gives nothing away to say that all ends happily and that love works in puzzling ways. On the way, however, Shannon Jarrell and Chuck Raucci, in the romantic leads, crackle with energy. If anything, Raucci may be too good -- he emits so much electricity, we wonder why Raina doesn't come to her senses sooner.

But Lind depicts Raina's subtle intellectual snobbery perfectly, and for Ryan she has written witty lines that prove someone can be whip-smart without being expensively educated. Ostensibly a romantic comedy, "String" shrewdly observes the machinery of the 21st-century class system.

... Lind's voice is articulate and refreshing, and this production does it justice.

    - Katherine Karlin, LA Daily News (3 out of 4 stars)

Five young people desperately seeking something share the irritating human habit of looking in all the wrong places for what they seek. Raina (a sublimely fresh and natural Shannon Jarrell) is a poet by persuasion and a romantic manque when it comes to love. Convinced by her dead white poets that love is a tangible concept she'll magically recognize when she runs into it, she's ready to give practical advice to her needy sister, Joy (an equally realistic Shannon Nelson), but not ready to take it. Joy's husband, Cliff (Richard Wylie), on his way to the top in the Band-Aids industry, doesn't have time for romance. It's obviously time for a pizza. Enter a rather strange and extraordinary pizza delivery guy, Ryan, played by a very engaging, strange, and extraordinary Chuck Raucci, who won't let go even when set up in dubious battle against staid medieval-literature professor Derek (a solid David Nett, who also co-directs with Patty Ramsey).

Jessica Lind's romantic comedy takes a predictable course, relieved for the most part by its wit and charm, and its subtly detailed direction and superfine performances, making us all fall a little in love with the characters...

Set and lighting design (Nett), costumes (Nelson), props and dressing (James Paul Xavier), and original music by Jacob Carver are lovingly detailed, and the charm never leaves...

    - Madeleine Shaner, Backstage West

Is there a difference between wooing and stalking? Ryan (Chuck Raucci), a pizza-delivery man who aspires to be a lawn-fertilizer salesman, believes he's wooing Raina (Shannon Jarrell), a poet with a day job in a bookstore. After the two meet cute, Ryan tracks Raina down at her workplace, where she's waiting for her boyfriend, Derek (co-director David Nett), a medieval literature scholar. When Ryan asks her out on a date, Raina indicates she's not interested, but he shows up at her house anyway with tickets to an Eminem concert. Things become even more awkward when Derek arrives to squire her to an academic awards banquet. Later the same evening, Ryan shows up again, proving he's nothing if not persistent. Juxtaposed against this lopsided love triangle is a subplot involving Raina's sister, Joy (Shannon Nelson), who has her own problems with her husband, Cliff (Richard Wylie). As the two sisters, Jarrell and Nelson deliver top-notch performances under Nett and Patty Ramsey's brisk direction. ... playwright Jessica Lind has a knack for snappy dialogue ... the play breezes over issues related to class and status as it hurtles toward the denouement that true love conquers all.

    - Sandra Ross, LAWeekly

Let heart prevail over the head

While Jessica Lind's new romantic comedy adds little to the genre, it still charms in the capable hands of an engaging cast.

Ah, budding relationships -- so vital to the proliferation of the species and therapists' bank accounts, not to mention that narrative staple, the romantic comedy...

Lind's heroine, a smart 27-year-old poet named Raina (Shannon Jarrell), claims she was born for one reason: to fall in love. Yet love has always eluded her, mainly because the mundane world never quite lives up to romantic ideals shaped by her favorite poets "who can squeeze beauty out of anything."

Not that the attractive Raina is short on suitors. The leading candidate for her affections is a handsome, erudite Medieval lit scholar named Derek (David Nett, who co-directs with Patty Ramsey). They have similar interests and get along well -- a seemingly good match.

Then there's the pizza delivery guy named Ryan (Chuck Raucci), who shows up on Raina's doorstep with car trouble. No, it's not that kind of story -- Ryan is no studly boy toy, he's a cheerful if socially maladroit guy with an IQ a few ticks north of Forrest Gump. But he takes a shine to Raina and tries to woo her despite her immediate -- and persistent -- dismissal.

Naturally, it takes a while for Raina to see past surface trappings to the true heart being offered her. Ryan has better luck ingratiating himself with Raina's less ambitiously idealistic sister, Joy (Shannon Nelson), and her unglamorous but well-meaning husband, Cliff (Richard Wylie).

Armed with a few sharp lines of dialogue, Lind's script follows a predictable path to an affirmation of simple heart over sophisticated head...

Engaging chemistry between Jarrell and Raucci sustains interest, but when their characters' fairy tale ends in the place where Joy and Cliff's marriage began, you have to wonder whose story would make the more interesting play.

    - Philip Brandes, LA Times

Asymmetry (October 2005)

Simply the best of EdgeFest, this. Rick Robinson's cleverly intertwined contemporary trio of brilliantly intimate personal stories are told and performed simultaneously, rather like Pera Palas without the hotel. Or the harem. There are six brave and exquisitely heartfelt performances from Lucid by Proxy's Melody Doyle, Alex Fernandez, Alan Loayza, Shannon Nelson, David Nett, and Keaton Talmadge in a spectacularly austere but engaging production ingeniously directed by this insightful, bitterly funny new playwright.

    - Travis Michael Holder, ReviewPlays.com (ReviewPlays "Pick of the Week")

Close encounters of the human kind

Six lives out of whack, three painful encounters driven by desperate need. Urgency infuses Lucid by Proxy theater company's production of "Asymmetry," as seeming common ground becomes battleground when three couples, two newly met, one long estranged, struggle to connect and redeem their damaged lives.

In Rick Robinson's uneven but forceful new 21st century gothic, created for EdgeFest, the action overlaps on James Paul Xavier's stark apartment set with three free-standing doors. The couples, unaware of each other and separated by time and place, come and go.

In a choreography of exits and entrances, smoothly directed by Robinson, they meet, motivated variously by sex, revenge and a need for affirmation.

Most likable is Julius (Alan Loayza), who's seeing his longtime online poker buddy Priscilla (Shannon Nelson) for the first time. Priscilla's heavily scarred face and neurotic defensiveness come as a shock to Julius, who bears hidden scars of his own. Thanks to Loayza's well-defined geeky sweetness, this setup also works as the play's only humorous leavening.

Miguel (Alex Fernandez), a dying, broken poet, hungers to reclaim his past self through the eyes of former student and once-worshipful lover Sandy (Melody Doyle), unaware that her life has been shaped by his betrayal.

Meanwhile, a no-strings-attached sexual encounter between bitter Maggie and still-hopeful Cody (Keaton Talmadge and David Nett), who share a disease and its attendant sense of shame, turns into a near-violent confrontation.

Each encounter comes with layers of pain and new lacerations of the heart, but at least in one case, with the possibility of healing -- and balance.

Is it overwritten and a trifle overheated? Yes. But the play's emotional core is compelling and so, too, is the fearless creative grab of this vigorous company.

    - Lynne Heffley, Los Angeles Times (LA Times "Recommended")

Playwright-director Rick Robinson intertwines three tales of troubled relationships (sometimes simultaneously) on a single set. Computer hacker Julius (Alan Loayza) seeks revenge on Priscilla (Shannon Nelson), who humiliated him in high school, but his agenda alters when he discovers that she has since suffered a disfiguring accident. Cody (David Nett) and Maggie (Keaton Talmadge), both herpes-positive, come together for a torrid bout of sex, but fear of love and their ways of dealing with their infection make for rough sledding. College writing teacher Miguel (Alex Fernandez), who's dying of cancer, arranges a last meeting with a former student, Sandy (Melody Doyle), with whom he once had an affair, but learns more than he bargained for. The three couples must contend with mendacity, impotence and physical affliction along with all the usual interpersonal baggage. Robinson finds humor in the situations, despite some tough issues, and creates a compact, subtle play. He's assembled a top-notch cast that combines sensitivity with panache on James Paul Xavier's neat, handsome, uncluttered set.

    - Neal Weaver, LAWeekly (LA Weekly "Recommended - GO" Pick)

Writer-director Rick Robinson creates a perfectly balanced play about the imbalance that seems so painfully inherent in every relationship. Three couples -- at a beginning, middle, or end of their couplings -- meet up for a few hours. Our communication skills -- or lack of skills -- is on display here, some characters unable to say what they mean, some unable to listen. Priscilla (Shannon Nelson) and Julius (Alan Loayza) met online and are finally coming face-to-face, requiring each to come clean on their deceits. Maggie (Keaton Talmadge) and Cody (David Nett) differ on coping with herpes and their needs for comforting contact. Sandy (Melody Doyle) and Miguel (Alex Fernandez) were lovers years before and don't know whether or how to reignite passion.

Directed with precision and an affection for unlovable characters, the acting, particularly by the men, is real, committed, and detailed. Nett's Cody is guileless and tender, Loayza's Julius seems desperate to escape his phrenic personality. And Fernandez's Miguel is realistically stubborn, each line spoken with a flawless, convincing Cuban accent.

Nett's lighting is moody, James Paul Xavier's set and props are solid and sensible. The asymmetrical ending leaves us wondering and wanting more.

    - Dany Margolies, Backstage West (Backstage West "Critics Pick")

(from ExperienceLA's 2005 EdgeFest "Hot Picks")
"Here are a few more highlights from this year's line-up. We can't cover them all so make sure to check out all the programs at the EdgeFest website.
Asymmetry: Six lives. Three rooms. One night. "Asymmetry" explores the relationships of three couples, all looking to each other to heal the scars of the past. Asymmetry makes its world premiere at EdgeFest. It is a Lucid by Proxy production by Rick Robinson."

    - ExperienceLA (#1 of 3 "Hot Picks" in issue 80)

(from the BackStage West preview of the 2005 EdgeFest)
"Six lives. One night. Lucid by Proxy's Asymmetry chronicles the halting first steps of three fledging relationships, as six damaged people fumble for intimacy and balance." Written by Rick Robinson, featuring Shannon Nelson and David Nett. We've always admired Lucid by Proxy's work; let's see if the streak continues."

    - Dany Margolies, BackStage West

Psalms of a Questionable Nature (August 2005)

The basement of the house once owned by the parents of stepsisters Greta and Moo (Sasha Harris and Shannon Nelson) contains tables and boxes draped with white sheets, like ghosts of the secret projects the mister and missus were working on before their fatal car crash. Greta and Moo have never met, a point that sits far better with Greta, a disgraced loner looking to sell the place, than it does with howling, needy Moo, a stray dog of a child. Marisa Wegrzyn's grim yet mesmerizing one-act has a tone of suburban gothic that flowers into a chilling horror show -- reflecting contemporary national paranoia. The basement's shrouds do more than just recall the dead; if mishandled, they'll turn you into a corpse. Under Trevor Biship's assured direction, Harris and Nelson are riveting, and the production masterful...

    - Amy Nicholson, LAWeekly (LA Weekly "Recommended" Pick)

Lucid by Proxy and set designer Chris Hansen certainly know how to fill a space, turning their miniscule concrete-floored playing area into the menacing basement setting of Marisa Wegrzyn's unsettling tale of stepsisters trying to sort out the nature of the relationship they've never had. Greta and Moo (Sasha Harris and Shannon Nelson) have never met, but the death of Greta's mother and Moo's father in a fiery wreck has left them with the task of uncovering--literally--what the mysterious couple left behind in this dank and claustrophobic amateur laboratory, where bedsheets conceal every surface and walls are covered in black trash bags and vinyl shower curtains. In this case, the malevolent Texas Chainsaw-esque stuff hiding below the camouflage includes a cellar full of twitching, dying experimental mice; a metal table where their elders often made fervent, if twisted, love as Moo watched in silent horror; and a refrigerator filled with vials of smallpox and bubonic plague--which the pair produced themselves and gleefully mailed as a "Kmart of infectious diseases" to various enemies, thus by all indications fueling their tabled passions to a misshapen private place where the deluded duo seems to have systematically "screwed the brains out of their ears."

... Harris and Nelson, guided by the in-your-face direction of Trevor Biship, make it work beautifully. Both performances, particularly Nelson's, could not be more committed to the material, and, if one suspends belief long enough to grasp the disturbing saga as the actors move within inches of our seats, the experience can be as suitably disquieting as the playwright intended. Together with Wegrzyn, Biship and his performers conspire to construct something unnerving, creating a palpable tension right from the beginning guaranteed to make the uncomfortable observers as surprised they're staying in this creepy basement as surely as do the characters themselves. The ultimate effect is to want to race home and take a shower, a sign that this production succeeds in conjuring every emotion it set out to elicit.

    - Travis Michael Holder, Backstage West


Such gothic elements as a dead bat in the closet, a basement filled with caged mice and vials of smallpox and bubonic plague serum set the stage for a hair-raising horror story. Writer Marisa Wegrzyn moves along in that gruesomely gripping mode, aided by magnetic portrayals from Shannon Nelson and Sasha Harris...

The work of critically applauded production company Lucid by Proxy, a group of actors who have presented 10 world- premiere plays since 2000, "Psalms of a Questionable Nature" creates a chilling mood as two hostile women enter a claustrophobic basement (the wonderfully macabre set by Chris Hansen).

The seemingly psychotic Moo (Nelson) informs stepsister Greta (Harris) that their recently deceased parents were into "strange stuff." It turns out Mom and Dad were indeed weirdos who enjoyed collecting and preserving vials of deadly disease serum.

In the course of the tale, Moo reveals that she used to watch her parents make love ("People shouldn't stick things into other people") and assisted her father when he worked in a slaughterhouse. Wild-eyed Moo admits she killed her folks, at their request, when they became fatally ill handling envelopes that contained lethal powder.

Greta, who needs money and plans to sell the family home, is traumatized by this knowledge, and expectations are raised that Moo, who doesn't want the house sold, will kill her sister.

The ironic use of a Sinatra record, "I'll Never Smile Again," provides ominous foreshadowing, and suspense increases with the revelation that Greta served a four-year prison sentence for attempting to murder her child.

Lighting by Hansen and David Nett heightens the ghoulish atmosphere, often trapping spectators in total darkness and intensifying a sense of palm-sweating nervousness.

... Nelson's portrait of the disturbed Moo is a spellbinding blend of loneliness, confusion and childlike terror. Humphrey Bogart once said the best acting is simply listening, so that audiences can read the mind of the character even when he or she is silent, and Nelson supplies a definitive example of this skill. She sits with rapt attention as her sister speaks, and it's easy to see every desperate emotion.

Nelson has one scene in which she coughs and retches violently from the sickness destroying her, and she seems to shatter into pieces. Rugged to watch, it's frighteningly, repulsively real.

Although the character of Greta doesn't offer such showy opportunities, Harris carefully builds her reactions, from cool disdain to growing shock at her demented parental history. She invites sympathy when the house buyers she counted on change their minds and makes her panic palpable while worrying that she might contract a lethal illness.

In view of Moo's insanely erratic behavior, it's difficult for an actress to make Greta's sisterly switch from rejection to acceptance entirely convincing, and Harris surmounts this problem with a subdued, tentative transition, rather than expressing effusive emotion.

Wegrzyn has a marked flair for creating psychological thrillers, the kind that would translate into TV movies and feature films, and "Psalms" can compete in that arena if reworked to follow through on its own grotesque, grisly premises.

    - Joel Hirschorn, Variety

i r l (in real life) (March 2005)

Lucid by Proxy once again shows its vitality with a new offering that succeeds mostly on the quirkiness and precision of live actors and computer-generated characters together onstage. And for this feat alone, this play should find a young audience. Three online gaming enthusiasts (David Nett, JoAnna Senatore and James Paul Xavier) decide to meet in person for the first time at a national convention for their favorite game, Wizards Exile, only to discover that the fourth of their legion will not be able to make it. Thus begins a quest in real life, cross-country, to find her. The lunacy of this action is paralleled by their online characters moving through a magical landscape projected onto a screen upstage. Naturally, the gamers subsequently deal with the chasmic gap between the reality of the game and the reality of life. Director Joshua Hsu captures the duality of the characters beautifully in the physical space...

    - Luis Reyes, LAWeekly

Playwright Rick Robinson's comedy has an engaging premise: the encounter of four characters who have become online friends through the world of gaming but have never met in person...

The occasion for the rendezvous is a convention in L.A. for the (fictional) game, "Wizard's Exile." The four virtual buddies travel to the convention, eager to rip away their gaming identities and meet in the flesh. Nathan (David Nett) has left his fiance in the lurch to travel to the convention, while the lonely and isolated Reyes (James Paul Xavier) has purchased an engagement ring to give to Michelle (JoAnna Senatore). Gavin (Gary Karp), on the other hand, is content to remain largely in the guise of his character in the game.

These folks are, for the most part, geeks. They admit as much and struggle with the isolation of their gaming obsessions. Much of the discussion in the play is about breaking out of this isolation; however, escape doesn't seem likely. Nathan and Michelle manage a brief fling, and Reyes finally hauls out the engagement ring and proposes to Michelle, who refuses. Gavin reveals his even darker side. However, nothing much happens to these characters, who will mostly return, sadder but wiser, to the world of wizards, dragons, and swords...

The cast is generally solid, Senatore playing a convincing and grounded woman amid a couple of pretty strange guys. Nett is endearing as the would-be normal guy ... Xavier ... is surprisingly understated in his choices. Best of all is Karp, who, although he has only a few moments onstage, shines as the demented role-player.

    - Hoyt Hillsman, Backstage West

Quickening (August 2004)

Rebecca Tourino's world-premiere play "Quickening" explores the many ways that exercising one's right to choose abortion creates moral dilemmas beyond what we might normally expect... Thankfully, director Valerie Rachelle and an excellent cast help to bring out the virtues of this thoughtful piece while minimizing its drawbacks. Five fine actresses each have moments to shine. Four women (Angel Laketa Moore, Shannon Nelson, Jessica Pennington, and Jessica Seely) wait for their surgical procedures in an abortion clinic under the supervision of a lesbian nurse (Jeanette Scherrer), who exhibits extraordinary compassion for the high-strung patients. David Nett does a credible job of playing a doctor and all of the male characters in the women's lives in episodes that either precede or follow the day of reckoning. Almost all of the men, however, exhibit undesirable traits, what with irresponsible boyfriends, a trouble-making college student, and arrogant stage directors (one of the women, an aspiring actress, attends a series of auditions from hell). Despite its flaws, Tourino's play hits upon many issues that deserve serious reflection, suggesting that abortion is never guilt-free, even for the most liberal women. They each have their own reasons for not wanting to have a baby, and they all learn from each other's life situations and from the difficult choice they have all made...

    - Les Spindle, Frontiers Magazine

Rebecca Tourino's play offers a sympathetic glimpse into the lives of four women waiting in an abortion clinic. Told to arrive two hours before their scheduled procedures, the women find fault with the steely but compassionate Nurse (Jeanette Scherrer) -- until they start carping at each other. Recent college grad Nina (Jessica Seely) chatters brightly about her "moment of passage," much to the annoyance of literature professor Colleen (Jessica Pennington), who just wants to be left alone. Sparks fly between free-spirited Hazel (Angel Laketa Moore) and married Roweena (Shannon Nelson), a working-class, Catholic mother of two. In flashbacks and flashforwards, David Nett plays the men in their lives... Director Valerie Rachelle elicits strong performances from the ensemble, particularly Seely, and the fantasy sequences are well-staged...

    - Sandra Ross, LAWeekly

In my book, the young, ambitious theatre ensemble Lucid by Proxy gets a lot of credit for its commitment to new writing and the dedication of its versatile company members...

Valerie Rachelle directs the capable cast. In the very public clinic, Angel Laketa Moore plays an outspoken woman with a 'tude who immediately looks to connect to the other patients: a reserved college professor (Jessica Pennington), an eager young actor (Jessica Seely), and a seriously conflicted married Catholic (Shannon Nelson). Jeanette Scherrer does a fine turn here as a warm, compassionate, yet down-to-business nurse who, naturally, happens to be a lesbian. And David Nett portrays all the men in all of their lives... We see clinical procedures and details of doomed relationships; hear gynecological specifications and, in Tourino's most interesting writing, dreamlike narrations describing that nameless thing which must be gotten rid of...

Tourino has an easy way with dialogue, and Quickening comes alive ... when she moves beyond the expected when it comes to women and their unique experiences...

    - Jennie Webb, Backstage West

100 Actor-driven Ensembles That Have Staying Power (April 2004 - Newspaper Article)

Lucid by Proxy: Young, vibrant troupe unafraid of tweaking convention.

    - Louis Reyes, LAWeekly

Spare Parts & Cynic (October 2003)

Writers Rick Robinson and Joshua N. Hsu's dark musical comedy bites into the meaty satirical flesh of soul-crushing middle management, where the people above you hardly know you're there and the people below you are almost invisible. Nancy Singleton (Shannon Nelson), a gregarious do-gooder working for a successful but dull-edged software company responds uncharacteristically to a series of layoffs by mounting an officewide mutiny. But when the bullets of self-interest start flying, she transforms from being kind to growing fangs so necessary to chew one's way up the corporate ladder. Robinson and Hsu artfully eschew cliche, and director-choreographer Valerie Rachelle draws powerful bitter-comic performances from her cast. Nelson is simply phenomenal, driving the arc from mousey office nothing to corporate player. And John David Wallis' hapless, house-cleaning middle manager maintains dignity and sympathy, despite his character's abrasively amoral penchant for efficiency. The musical numbers for the most part are unmemorable, except for a medley of tunes that close the first half with an almost Les Miserables-type fervor. But whatever the music lacks, the complex and deliciously moral ambiguity in the story more than makes up for it.

    - Louis Reyes, LAWeekly
    (Spare Parts & Cynic was a "Recommended Production" by LAWeekly)

...Written by Rick Robinson, with music and lyrics Joshua N Hsu, the production has a healthy bone structure and a pleasing personality. Now it needs someone to clip and shape it, to give it focus, to turn the hit-and-miss jokes into solid laughs, to turn it from mildly satirical to bitingly absurdist.

But there's lots to keep in this cautionary tale about office downsizing, workplace harassment, and the craziness of any group that spends its waking hours together. Deserving no pink slips here are the heroine who goes from pastels to pinstripes, the gamine brunette twin temps, the cocky computer geeks, indeed the whole idea of a workplace musical, which needs an updated flagship since "How to Succeed..." sailed away. The choreography, by director Valerie Rachelle, is top flight; it is innovative, while remaining appropriate to the subject matter and making everyone onstage look like a dancer. Terrific onstage talent helps, too, in notably fine turns by Sarah Orr as the imperious receptionist, Jay Willick as the head suit, and David Nett as the king of all geeks.

Should this troupe decide to go with a makeover, a reworking of the songs might keep the show flowing... But the energy and inventiveness apparent at every moment will never be topped--or ruined--by a rethinking of the piece.

    - Dany Margolies, Backstage West

School of Jesus Fish (August 2003)

"Jesus Fish" a healing experience

Hope is in short supply at a Tucson psychiatric hospital. Then a new patient is admitted, a young woman who claims a connection to God and appears to possess healing powers.

Whether she's the real deal or not, she works at least one miracle: She brings a ray of light to some very grim lives.

Introduced as a one-act play during the 2001 EdgeFest, Rick Robinson's "School of Jesus Fish" has been expanded to full length for a Lucid by Proxy presentation at Paul E. Richards' Theater Place in Silver Lake. Realistically staged and vividly performed, the show is full of surprises even as it calls to mind such plays and movies as "Agnes of God" and "Girl, Interrupted," as well as episodes from the lives of Jesus and Joan of Arc.

Anne (Sara Parry) is admitted to the psychiatric hospital after causing the sort of property damage that Jesus did when he chased the merchants from the temple. Attempts to break through to her by earnest newbie therapist Dr. Ben (David Nett) and pragmatic veteran Dr. Simon (Joseph S. Moser) are interspersed with scenes from the lives of the other patients, including the too-full-of-life Fish (Keaton Talmadge) and Franny (Kyra Zagorsky) and the self-esteem-deprived Sam (Shannon Nelson).

Though Anne seems fairly lucid, her claims of a linkup with God draw an eye-rolling I've-heard-that-before response even from her fellow patients. Gradually, though, her warm, comforting manner wins them over. When she appears to be the instrument of others' miraculous recoveries, the therapists -- who seem to be working a few miracles of their own -- find themselves in a sticky situation.

Audience members sit on the periphery of a blandly institutional room (designed by Nick May) that is whitewashed with fluorescent light. The setting is so real and the performances, under Valerie Rachelle's direction, are so believable that this rather fantastic story soon seems entirely plausible, raising the question: Should we believe with our minds or our hearts?

    - Daryl H. Miller, LA Times

There's something about girls on meds in a nuthouse. It's called shameless fodder for writers and actors. And in the case of this Rick Robinson script, now expanded after a one-act EdgeFest outing in 2001, all parties involved are having a shamelessly indulgent good time. Too bad psychiatric wards and their inhabitants are hardly new places to explore, whether onstage or on-screen. The territory here is St. Lucy's, a small private hospital in Arizona. The patients include the obviously nutso: Bible-spewing Irma (Sayda Trujilo), a volatile Franny (Kyra Zagorsky), and Debra (Gretchen Morgan), who paces continuously par excellence. They also include disturbed young things who might not be out of place at a local bar or supermarket: Keaton Talmadge's fabulously cynical Fish, and the breathtakingly vulnerable Sam, played to perfection by Shannon Nelson. Joseph S. Moser portrays the hospital's senior shrink, an oh-so-experienced alpha male who has a frighteningly firm grip on every situation. His protege is the youthful Dr. Ben (an appealing David Nett). Ben is making some missteps his first few days on the job but, sweet Jesus, he's committed to helping his patients, especially his newest charge, who fancies herself daughter of the heavenly mother. Sara Parry is utterly convincing as Anne, an intelligent and earnest woman who is eager to dispel any misinformation; she does not actually share DNA with the almighty, but she was chosen to be Her messenger. As medications are monitored, we witness the doctor-patient sessions at this fluorescently lit place of institutional healing (sets by Nick May, lights by May and Nett), described by Fish as the "perfect waiting room for nonexistence." We're also privy to the women's personal tales, and of course we begin to wonder who is really crazy, especially when the other patients begin to put their faith in Anne and her female savior, with impressive results. But if it all sounds like "been there, done that," this outing is made thoroughly involving by a company of extremely talented actors who, under Valerie Rachelle's direction, give knockout performances: particularly the wide-eyed Nelson, self-satisfied Moser, and Talmadge, whose confrontation with her Country & Western star sister (Amy Parks, in a dynamite turn) is a showstopper. This is not to dismiss Robinson's original imagery and smart, if decidedly male, voice as a playwright, or the worthwhile efforts of a quality company that has been around the block and should go far.

    - Jennie Webb, Backstage West

Early in Rick Robinson's inspiring but flawed drama, Fish (Keaton Talmadge) mockingly says to Anne (Sara Parry) that if she's looking for God, she's come to the wrong place. But as it turns out, God may very well have taken up residence in the sterile confines of St. Lucy's psychiatric hospital, where both women are undergoing treatment, along with Sam (the fine Shannon Nelson), Irma (Sayda Trujillo), Franny (Kyra Zagorsky) and Debra (Gretchen Morgan), under the supervision of drs. Ben and Simon (David Nett and Joseph S. Moser). From ... patient sessions (and individual monologues that are far more poignant and revealing), we glimpse into the psyches of these tormented females and the ugly circumstances that brought them here. Gradually, a stark change occurs among the patients, not because of the mind-killing drugs they are forced to take but because of Anne's insistence that she is a prophet who possesses a mysterious healing touch. Of course this puts her on a tragic collision course with her obstinate, clinically benevolent doctors. ...an emotionally charged and well-written script. Director Valerie Rachelle heads a cast that turns in gripping, convincing performances.

    - Lovell Estell III, LA Weekly

I.R.L. (In real Life) (November 2002)

Writer/director Rick Robinson has crafted a bittersweet comedy about the lost and lonely addicts of Wizard's Exile, an online role-playing fantasy game, who come together at a computer gaming convention. After spending 30 hours a week for months as their proxy characters, expectations for expanding their relationships in real life are as unrealistic as the characters into whom they have morphed.

Central is Reyes (winningly played by James Paul Xavier), a sweetly simple nerd who brings an engagement ring to his weird but very savvy online mistress Michelle (Joanna Senatore in a recognizable characterization). Gary Karp jubilantly portrays an obnoxiously ridiculous Gavin the Black, who isn't exactly what he seems. Breaking the romantic code of the mystical fantasy realm is Nathan (in a blithe portrayal by David Nett), an almost married man who has left his estranged fianc' in order to meet Amy, the lady of his cyber-dreams, who is a no-show. This inspires the absurdly funny "quest" this trio undertakes into the Arizona desert in search of the missing role-player. Economically staged by Nett, the slight but psychologically weighty play, directed with a comfortably loose realism by Robinson, creatively dressed by Rachel Myers, with sound design by James Grabowski and evocative digital projections by Jim Robinson, is a fetching fable for our times.

    - Madeleine Shaner, Backstage West
    (I.R.L. (In Real Life) was a "Critics Pick" at the 2002 Los Angeles Edge of the World Festival)

Cotillion (November 2002)

Writer/director Jeanette Scherrer's teen coming-of-age comedy ... has a glossy veneer that recalls Ross Hunter's vintage women's pictures. The easygoing narrative gingerly tiptoes through themes of racial bigotry and suppressed lesbianism, but never at the expense of feel-good sentiments.

In 1957 Alabama, 18-year-old tomboy Becky (Shannon Nelson) resists the self-serving machinations of her socially ambitious new stepmother (Tina Gloss), as well as the romantic advances of sweet, sensitive Johnny (Robert Porch), the boy next door. Along for the ride are the family's longtime African-American maid Celie (Kila Kitu), Celie's mulatto daughter (Sarah Culberson), and the pivotal character of Johnny's slightly wild sibling (Sara Weller).

Scherrer guides a solid cast thorough a deftly paced production that fulfills the script's modest aims. Nelson's portrait of adolescent angst is engaging; the same applies to Culberson as Becky's spunky pal. Kitu capably handles the limited demands of the kindly nanny role, and Porch is charming as the ever-patient lovestruck suitor. Gloss has good moments... James Grabowski's nostalgic soundtrack of easy-listening chart toppers from the Eisenhower era is a bonus for baby boomers.

    - Les Spindle, Backstage West

Jack Cracker and School of Jesus Fish (November 2001)

In playwright/director Rick Robinson's School of Jesus Fish, the more involving and dramatically meatier of this double bill of one-act plays, the Second Coming finally happens, but the lucky recipients of God's largesse are inmates at a mental institution for women. Sweet-natured schizophrenic Anne (Kristin Prewitt) is admitted to the women's hospital believing she's hearing the voice of God, not an unusual happenstance in lunatic asylums. However, when Anne starts curing various inmates of their afflictions, she runs afoul of the doctors, who plot to destroy this "Jessica Christ" once and for all.

Robinson's drama follows a fairly predictable plot trajectory, but the writing is powerful and the characters' emotional pain rings true and believable. The staging is crisp, and Robinson suffuses the goings-on with a quick pace and urgent intensity. Prewett's totally vulnerable and generous Anne is winning, and David Nett, as a kindly doctor who's ultimately manipulated into betraying her, is terrifyingly sad.

    - Paul Birchall, Backstage West

The members of Lucid by Proxy are EdgeFest vets-though last year they used the lower-cased name "primal elements." Last year the group's EdgeFest one-acts at the LATC, Sap and Something Persists, got a Critic's Pick from our Dany Margolies. This time around their shows sound equally interesting. The first, Jeanette Scherrer and Eli Chartkoff's Jack Cracker, is a radio play performed live onstage by a defiant troupe of 1940s Norwegian-American actors who desperately want to preserve the nearly lost art of ancient Nordic theatre. The second offering, Rick Robinson's School of Jesus Fish, follows a 33-year-old woman, who claims she's God's daughter on Earth, and the doctor who seeks to cure her. Considering the track record, these two out-there shows are good bets. And, hey, the group has a bitchin' website.

    - Backstage West (in anticipation of Edgefest 2001)

SAP, boy meets tree and Something Persists (November 2000)

Something Persists by Valerie Rachelle and directed by Jeanett Scherrer, melds stories and characters from Portrait of a Lady, Sister Carrie, Quicksand, and The Yellow Wallpaper into a unified work on the varieties and vagaries of feminism that have, and have not, altered over the past 150 years. It does not, and cannot, delve into the intricacies of the literature, but it does work well as a study in Victoriana. Kristin Prewitt silently portrays teh supposedly demented woman who communicates only with the wallpaper (Beret K. Malmgren). Nicole Talmage takes carrie from ostensible innocent to apparent manipulator, crushing Drouet (Tim Sabourin) and Hurstwood (Christopher Vore) along the way. Cassandra David-Marsh plays Hope, a woman torn between security and ideals. Ailene King is Isabel, the eponymous lady, mostly haughty and self-centered in this interpretation, encircled by Messrs Greenwood (Sean McGowan), Warburton (David Nett), John Osmond (Richard Wylie), and cousin Ralph (Frederick Snyder in the smallest but most meaningful and revealing performance of the evening).

The touchingly whimsical SAP, written and directed by Rick Robinson, finds an overachieving worker (Snyder, this time humorously but tenderly playing the innocent abroad) forced into vacationing in the desert. He falls in love with a Joshua tree, teh knots of which resemble a human form. The crisply stylized acting has the futuristic workers seemingly magnetized to computer terminals, the bosses glaring wildly (Talmadge) or nodding and smiling unceasingly (McGowan), but we are left with hope that something may stir between our hero and the lingerie salesgirl (Rachelle)."

    - Backstage West
    (SAP and Something Persists were Critics Picks at the 2000 Los Angeles Edge of the World Festival)

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