In this new play, four very disparate people who have lost a parent assemble for grief counseling but, like Godot, the counselor never comes. So, left to their own devices, they soon drop the formalities and start to tear away at each others facades. It soon appears that what might have taken six months in group therapy, in this case, is humorously achieved in under 90 minutes. It is funny but also touching as, with their illusions mocked, each one faces up to and admits the gnawing sorrow of their lives. In the end, their impromptu session achieves what appears to be (and one hopes is) a catharsis for all.
First up is Stanley (Gary Rubenstein) as the quintessential Mama’s Boy whose declarations of adoration for the long-departed ring false to practical Ray (Paul Messinger) and no-nonsense Ruth (Rachel Boller). Both of them insist they have no need for grief therapy - Ray has the perfect marriage and Ruth the perfect job.
Then comes Brenda (Mandy Dunlap), the worried mother of rowdy youngsters, who is not ashamed to admit that her grief over her father’s death is more for what was lacking in life with him than for his leaving.
Author Leslie Hardy has a keen but tender eye for people’s muddled emotions and all of her characters ring true and distinctive. Director Jeffrey Wylie paces the show for ultimate attention – making us flies on the wall so we are practically included in the goings on. The set by Bill Cole captures the bleak after-hours atmosphere of a yellow-walled schoolroom with plastic-tile floor. Developed at Fierce Backbone Theatre Company and produced by Victoria Watson.
At the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd (East of Vine) through December 1st. Tickets: 323-960-7784 or www.plays411.com/grief.