Poor Clare is Rich and Funny….and Topical

Hull, Cartwright, De Cardenas. Photo by Cooper Bates.

In Poor Clare, Playwright Chiara Atik weaves the story of a thirteenth-century saint affiliated with St. Francis into a sharply clever expose of our own times.  Despite an opening delay, the production, directed by Alana Dietze, moves smoothly against a minimal setting (designed by Amanda Knehans).  At one moment we may be in Clare’s palatial home surrounded by fluttering servants, and the next we’re in Francis’ ruined monastery.  Clare (TV star Jordan Hull) and, to a lesser extent, sister, Beatrice (Donna Sedeh), seem content with the attention.  Their mother, Ortolana (Ann Noble) is conscientious about “giving back” just enough to assuage their sense of privilege. But when Clare encounters a beggar (Tony DiCarlo, who may be my favorite character), she realizes, as many of us should, that the problem is much more endemic than sharing left-over dinner. 

Playwright Atik writes with a breezy teen-aged humor that weds us to the present, even though her tale is 800 years old. Clare encounters not-yet-sanctified Francis (Michael Sturgis) as if he were a rock-star and she, a besotted fan. I might say that she takes her fandom a little more seriously than most, however, as she sets about establishing her own monastic order, The Order of Poor Ladies.  

In the concluding moments of the play, Clare delivers the most beautiful, heart-felt prayer that feels as if it echoes down the centuries.  Its message hovers in the air, a call to action that, I hope, all will take to heart.

As always with Echo, the technical elements seamlessly coalesce to help make this one of the outstanding plays opening for live audiences this fall.  Director Dietze keeps the action clipping along, while Jordan Hull as Clare proves her credentials as a top-notch actress.  The excellent ensemble tells the story with exceptional sincerity. Of note, the servants Alma (Kari Lee Cartwright) and Peppa (Martica de Cardenas) contribute to the ambiance with displays of overwhelming care for their young charge. 

Echo Theatre company presents Poor Clare  by Chiara Atik, through November 29th, playing Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 4:00 pm, at the Atwater Village Theatre Complex, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles 90039. Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test is required.  Weekend tickets are $34.00; Advance Monday tickets are $20.00, or pay-what-you-can at the door.  Call (310) 307-3753 or go to www.echotheatrecompany.com