Take the colorful words of playwright Paul North, the energetic direction of Brian E. Smith and put them together with a multitalented cast and you have The Eclectic Company Theatre’s production of “The Gambler’s Daughter” in North Hollywood.
"The Gambler's Daughter" is a story of a granddaughter coming home to her abandoned father after seven years of only ever writing letters to him. What she finds is a new home where her grandfather and father have not really changed and there is a new face or two now living under that same roof she once called home.
Laura Michl plays the granddaughter Mary and Edmund Wyson as her father Lloyd. They both feel each other’s on-stage angst yet keep the alienation of their seven year non-communication gap clearly apparent.
Now for me it was a pure delight watching C. Ashleigh Caldwell playing Elaine, the sassy, feisty, independent, single mother who stirs up more than trouble in this dysfunctional family. Ashleigh was energetic, passionate and extremely sharp with her humor and bold characterization, which was a real treasure to watch.
J. R. Mangels plays Jack, the new fiancé who has more than that self-centered-motivation behind his marriage to Mary. Jack gives an honest and sincere take on a man who obviously is not in this relationship for love and does an amazing twist of a disorientated drunk! The chemistry between Ashleigh and J.R. was enticingly palatable.
Elaine’s only son Willy, played sharply by Tyler Derench, gives the whole family a shake or two. Tyler is quick and persistent in his delivery of a 16-year-old who just learned he has a sister from another mother. Again, the chemistry between Tyler and Ashleigh was raw and sharply clever which was just pure entertainment to watch.
Enter grandpa, played by actor John Dickey, in his wheelchair who, throughout the production, delivered some of the wittiest and sharp-tongued bits of observation and sarcasms. He had the quaint duty of literally speaking out loud what the audience is probably thinking.
This was a fun production with some serious commentary on jobs, gambling issues and the idea that lives can be separated and combined based on a series of misconceptions or even unread letters written over seven years. With a wonderful set design by Brian Cole, this production of “The Gambler’s Daughter” was a fun and passionate production to watch. It touches on family, friends and relatives as well as the downfalls of alcohol and gambling. You can always expect originality and loads of talent from The Eclectic Company Theatre.
Pictured: C. Ashleigh Caldwell (l.), JR Mangels, Tyler Derench, Laura Michl.