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Day Drinkers

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You’ve seen them—with neon names like Hi-Roy’s and Bee “R” Hive signaling to the late night lounge lizards, as well as to other liquor-swilling losers, abusers, and accusers; but they also flash an open-for-business cue to a cadre of early morning boozers. Yes, even in the dewy a.m. hours these neighborhood watering holes seem to have their devoted cocktail clientele.

Such is the focus of Los Angeles’ most prolific, and arguably most produced playwright, Justin Tanner. In Tanner’s latest script, Day Drinkers, Bart Delorenzo’s life-like direction makes a sensory experience out of Tanner’s theatricalization of day drinking. Indeed, taking a seat in the audience feels something like entering the archetypal corner dive (thanks in part to Gary Guidinger’s liquor-ambient set design and Bosco Flanagan’s dim and subtle barroom lighting motif).

As the show begins, it’s a little after 9 a.m., and an anxious-for-alcohol patron taps impatiently at the front door of the dark, dank tavern. Soon a man, Daniel, appears from within the pub to open the secured entrance. The customer, Mick, at last enters, complaining that under the previous proprietor—Daniel’s dearly departed parent—he never had to wait until 9:25 to place his “scotch omelet, hold the eggs” order.

Shortly thereafter, Mick the barfly (Tom Fitzpatrick in a most authentic characterization) and the young saloonkeeper, Daniel (an intensely charismatic Todd Lowe) are joined by Daniel’s temperamental wife, Jenny (Chloe Taylor, in an earthy portrayal). Clearly, Jenny and Daniel are at odds. The contempt that Jenny holds for Daniel registers on her face as if it were an acute physical pain.

Similarly, Daniel’s relational discontent is obvious in the way he belittles and verbally abuses Jenny, using self-pity as a cover, or perhaps an excuse, for his perpetual tetchiness. Of course there’s a more nefarious igniter of Daniel’s ignominious belligerence towards Jenny; this matrimonial meshugass provides a dramatic arch and plenty of tension in Day Drinkers, as we in the audience simply observe as events transpire.

Before long, old Mick’s aged fiancé, Val (Danielle Kennedy in a delightfully outrageous performance), joins this beverage-for-breakfast bunch, along with fellow barflies—Sharon and Kate, a lesbian couple (played convincingly by Maile Flanagan and Melissa Denton, respectively).

Val, however, has supposedly lost her engagement ring—the one for which Mick purportedly paid $7,000. With mild suspense we, along with a cast of day drinking characters, are drawn into what may or may not have happened to this valuable or not so valuable piece of jewelry.

Next, Daniel’s prodigal brother, Caleb (a magnetic Cody Chappel), arrives unexpectedly at the unpretentious hostelry. Caleb was, after all, on his carefree way to Canada, but he’s returned due to an item he’s left behind and feels he must retrieve before leaving to go north. Caleb’s delayed departure causes a rise in an already tense familial situation.

Finally, we learn that Mick’s middle-aged man of a son, Bradley (Jonathan Palmer in a scene-stealing turn), has made arrangements to meet Mick in the drinking establishment. Pressing family matters must be addressed, after all.

Day Drinkers, like so many Tanner plays (Pot Mom and Procreation, for example), transcends our judgments and character-logical criticisms. These theatrical personas appear as real and credible human beings.

These are characters surviving—albeit on life’s rocky amoral edge—as best they know how. Heavy daytime doses of libation may not be what any doctor would order as a treatment for what ails this assemblage of drunken denizens; nevertheless, a stiff belt from an 80-proof bottle of something or other is the self-prescribed medicine that these people imbibe on an hourly basis.

Our duty as theatergoers is to simply witness the booze-drenched dynamics of these human interactions. Like the morning after a long night (or day) of hard partying, you may not remember or be able to make sense out of everything that may have just happened in Day Drinkers—but it’s still a good time while it lasts (and it lasts just 90 minutes with no intermission).

Day Drinkers continues at the Odyssey Theatre—2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles—through October 9, 2011. Show times are Fridays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. Matinees are Sundays at 2 p.m. (Occasionally Wednesday performances are held; they begin at 8 p.m. Contact theater for schedule.)For reservations, dial (310) 477 – 2055. For online ticketing and further information, visit  www.OdysseyTheatre.com.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.