For the Price of a Book: Provenance at Little Fish Theatre

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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Little Fish always brings provacative programming to it’s 99-seat thatre in sleepy San Pedro. And Provenance has an intriguing premise: A woman hot on the trail of her 100th novel appears in an isolated, private library and refuses to leave until she finds it. She and the denizens of this remote spot gradually reveal their deepest secrets and learn to heal along the way.

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder has written a play that most bibliophiles must love. What’s better than a play about a library? And in Wilder’s hands, the odd group of characters engage us from the beginning. Frances (Susie McCarthy) is a brash, opinionated, and privileged hunter of first editions; Cleo (Kathryn Farren) clearly has a secret that we are challenged to discover. Her reading student, George (Bill Wolski), seems a little slow at first, but over time, he reveals his heart of gold. The odd person out in this bunch is Amelia (Maire-Rose Pike), who responds to her mother’s anguished command to appear on the mountain-top despite their estrangement.

Sadly, maneuvering this group into place requires a number of tried-and-true plot twists that stretch the credulity of the original situation. Here, illness provides grist for what I used to call “Disease of the Week” entertainment, spawned by weekly, 90-minute movies that once appeared on network television. Without giving away surprises, suffice it to say that the illnesses and, in the case of Ms. McCarthy, her robustness, belie the disease, while Ms. Farren’s surprise affliction escapes with little explanation.

Still, Little Fish artistic director Holly Baker-Kreiswirth papers over such questions with rapid fire pacing, attention to detail, and especially, a full roster of entre-act music that tells the story almost as well as the text itself. She is aided by secenic design by Merve Caydree Dobai and lighting designer Stacey Abrams, with costuming by  Diana Mann.  The players – Farren, McCarthy, Wolsky and Pike – are uniformly excellent in their respective roles.

Provenance runs in tandem with Canadian writer, Norm Foster’s play, Mending Fences, through May 27th. Provenance continues Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 2:00 PM through May 24th  at Little Fish Theatre, 7777 Centre Street, San Pedro 90731. Tickets, $15.00 to $27.00. Phone (310) 217-7596.  For reservations and ticketing, phone (310) 217-6030.