Los Angeles Theater Review: IT IS DONE (Pig ‘N Whistle in Hollywood)

by Tony Frankel on May 26, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles

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IT IS (BUT SHOULDN’T BE) DONE

There was something that felt particularly showcase-y about It Is Done, which can best be described as a 22-minute episode of The Twilight Zone laboriously stretched into a full-length one-act. There are three characters in Alex Goldberg’s talky script. Hank (Michael McCartney) is the skanky proprietor of a bar in the middle-of-nowhere; Jonas (Andre Tenerelli) is the attractive man who stops in for a drink (although neither he nor the audience has any idea why he is in this Godforsaken place until it is too late – for both Jonas and the audience); and Ruby (Catia Ojeda), a comely she-devil who waits for both a tow truck and the plot to arrive.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of It Is Done at Pig ‘N Whistle

The idea behind this production is that it is staged in an actual barroom, just behind the main room of Hollywood’s Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant. The concept of staging a play in non-traditional surroundings that are analogous to the script’s theme is nothing new. My issue with “site-specific” theater is that the plays themselves rarely warrant a production. It’s style over substance. Had It Is Done been a good script, the environs would have been completely justified, but having the audience sit at tables amidst the action (or inaction) backfires for two reasons: First, since the performers are in your face (one even accidentally stepped on my foot), their delivery must be at the same time multi-layered, naturalistic, cinematic and theatrical – our three actors were one-note; Second, because the event was so languid, it’s difficult not to notice the faces of the audience members, many of whom appeared like the sleepy, deadened patrons of Harry’s Bar in Act V of The Iceman Cometh.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of It Is Done at Pig ‘N Whistle

Goldberg is attempting a Sleuth-like mystery thriller, in which identities are slowly stripped away until a shocking twist pulls it all together. Instead of psychologically-fueled, labyrinthine storytelling, Goldberg halts the action with dead-end, filler dialogue, such as “I don’t know” and other vague responses. The audience shifts in their chairs when we think a revelation is about to appear, but does not. It’s going for a cat-and-mouse mystery, but I felt like a cat staring at a mousehole for sixty minutes, but the damn rodent never appeared; once the tiny head did emerge, this cat had lost interest. (To be fair, I did see a mouse early on, but it was the Mickey Mouse on the dial of my watch.)

The bar itself is the star of the evening, but because this is a working bar, it’s difficult to surmise what was added for the production. Still, KC Wilkerson’s atmospheric lighting, Jon Campbell’s effective sound (howling wind and a spooky jukebox), and Terry Hanrahan’s realistic production design are all to be commended.

Tony Frankel’s Los Angeles review of It Is Done at Pig ‘N Whistle

Director Michael Michetti could neither wring suspense from the script, nor elicit performances that grew in intensity. It’s all surface acting, so frustratingly typical in Los Angeles. As the bartender, McCartney starts out disgusting, annoying and loud at such a high pitch that he has nowhere to go. Tenerelli does play the lost soul well; unfortunately, his fear and discomfort are nowhere to be found. Ojeda has the trickiest role, as she is the one who turns out to be a completely different person than we thought; after the very, very late reveal, however, the attractive actress continues to read her lines the way she had 10 drinks earlier. (Oh, yeah, they’re all slamming back alcohol like Kool Aid, but no one seems drunk.)

Because Ojeda had a devil-of-a-time exposing the sinister aspect of her character’s true nature, I wondered why she was cast in the role. Ah, the plot thickens. She performed the role five months ago at The Mean Fiddler bar in New York. Turns out that the company who produced this one-note evening, GO AlleyCat Productions, is the “brainchild” of playwright Goldberg and actress Ojeda, his wife. Their stated mission? “To develop, incubate and produce bold, exciting and risky projects in theatre, television and film in New York, Los Angeles and beyond.” Turns out the biggest reveal of the night is that It Is Done is a showcase after all.

photos by Michael James Trimble

It Is Done
Entertainment LLC and GoAlleyCat Productions
Pig ‘N Whistle, 6714 Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood
Sun at 7, Mon and Tues at 8:30
ends on June 12, 2012
for tickets, visit It Is Done the Play

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