Written by Will Arbery
Directed by Michael Thomas-Visgar
I feel I should preface this review by telling you that The Road Theatre Company is one of the reasons I love going to the theatre in LA. I have never, ever seen a play produced by them that is anything less than brilliant.
That being said, and knowing I was in for a treat long before I sat myself down in my usual spot at The Road Theatre on Magnolia, this particular play far and away exceeded my already high expectations.
The Mongoose is a play about family, about loss and about how we all deal with both in wildly different ways.
It also reminds us how we can be born into the same family, with the same parents and turn out so completely different from our siblings that we may as well have been ordered online and recently delivered to the wrong address.
(from left to right) Arielle Fodor, Hannah Mae Sturges, Kevin Shipp and Dirk Etchison star in the World Premiere ROAD THEATRE COMPANY production of "THE MONGOOSE", written by Will Arbery and directed by Michael Thomas-Visgar and now playing at the ROAD THEATRE on Magnolia. PHOTO CREDIT: Michele Young
This particular family live in Texas, in a house, with an absent mother and a father who seems to be falling in love with a man. A son who is violent, abusive and lost, and two daughters, one of whom seems perfectly normal and the other childlike and obsessive. Into this chaotic home, brimming with people in crises, comes a savior, a mongoose.
Now the mongoose lives in the kitchen wall, a disembodied voice that speaks, at least at first, to only Maddy, the childlike older sister played wonderfully by Hannah Mae Sturges. At first the rest of the family indulge what they consider to be some kind of ‘acting out’ or ‘coping' mechanism of Maddy’s. The mother, Leanne, is permanently away on business, and Joe, the brother, played menacingly and with great depth by Kevin Shipp, appears to have melt downs on an hourly basis, and the father, Cole, portrayed with brilliant quiet despair by Dirk Etchison, has moved his boyfriend into the house…it’s a lot to deal with, and Maddy isn’t able to deal with growing up, or very much at all, it seems.
Cole’s boyfriend Dave is played by Michael Dempsey, who brilliantly mixes Dave’s need to fix everything with his valiant attempt at giving everyone their space. Love bursts out of him in every direction, he’s a wonderful character.
Leanne, the mom, is played by Blaire Chandler. Since Leanne is away, the conversations she has are only by phone, and this is heartbreakingly presented to us onstage with Leanne actually present, but not interacting with anyone else physically. She’s almost like a ghost in the house, which is such a clever and interesting way to show the audience how the family miss her, and she them. Blaire conveys Leanne’s heartbreak with a truth that brought me to tears, I have to say.
I could tell you more about the mongoose, and how on earth it exists, or if it even does, but I think it’s best to let that mystical element of the play connect with you as you connect with the story.
Suffice it to say you won't be disappointed with the playwright's weaving of magical realism, with crises and faith and a sprinkling of horror.
There are moments in this play that will leave you breathless, slightly baffled and beyond words, which is what I think the point of it. The Mongoose it not formulaic, it is not easily defined, and it certainly doesn’t have any answers to any big questions. But that is what I liked the most about the play. It is what it is, like each of us, like family and ultimately like our lives.
(from left to right)Hannah Mae Sturges and Dirk Etchison star in the World Premiere ROAD THEATRE COMPANY production of "THE MONGOOSE", written by Will Arbery and directed by Michael Thomas-Visgar and now playing at the ROAD THEATRE on Magnolia. PHOTO CREDIT: Michele Young
It is poetic and profound, but not at all in a contrived way, and the actors' performances belay their absolute delight in the story and in these strange and flawed people living tightly together in this house.
I highly recommend ‘The Mongoose’ at The Road on Magnolia, If you, like me, appreciate a tale well told of people beautifully falling apart, then please get your tickets quickly, these shows always sell well at The Road.
The show runs through April 17th. Thursday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and Sunday at 7pm
The Road on Magnolia
Inside the NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd.
Hannah Mae Sturges
Set Design – Chad Dellinger
Lighting Design – Derrick McDaniel
Sound Design – Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski
Costume Design – Michele Young