Los Angeles Theater Review: DRY LAND (Echo Theatre Company at Atwater Village Theatre)

by Tony Frankel on April 13, 2016

in Uncategorized

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FRIENDSHIP AS A LIFE VEST

For the lucky few who know confidence and fit in with no real problems, high school is a pleasant stepping stone from adolescence to adulthood. For many, the years leading to college are filled with loathing. Sometimes its as simple as hating the bitchy popular girls who seemingly skate through life. But when you combine tests, oral presentations, and stupid teachers with issues such as virginity, homophobia, bullying, peer pressure, and cliques, high school can be encapsulated in one word: survival. For my tumultuous three years, I glommed onto a friend who was never the best for me. We had a lot in common, including the Drama Department and all things Disney, but there were vast differences between us — religion and sexuality for starters. However uncertain our friendship was (he was mean to me; I lied to him), we needed each other as protection from the pressures of society and family. Our relationship was complicated but vital.

Teagan Rose and Connor Kelly Eiding in DRY LAND. Photo by Darrett Sanders.

A similar relationship dynamic can be found in the staggeringly well-written Dry Land by nascent playwright Ruby Rae Spiegel, presented by Echo Theatre Company. At Sunday night’s performance, high school came palpably crashing back in my face. This unapologetic examination of two girls on the swim team, and a do-it-yourself abortion, brought home the pain, suffering, isolation, identity crises, sexual discovery, and the bonding (perhaps love) of misfits. Director Alana Dietze evokes from Teagan Rose as the impregnated Amy and Connor Kelly-Eiding as the abetting Ester two riveting performances that will haunt me for some time to come. (There is only one scene not on Amanda Knehans’ authentic central-Florida locker room set, and in it Ben Horwitz plays a nerdy older college student with equal perfection.)

Connor Kelly Eiding and Teagan Rose in DRY LAND

But as harrowing as the play is — and its central scene is not recommended for the squeamish — Spiegel has crafted such convincing teenage patois, and painted it with all the authentic complexities of female friendship, that it can’t help but be ferociously funny as well. Less convincing in the 90-minute one-act are the Annie Baker-esque coda scenes that follow Amy’s almost unbearable-to-watch choice; a janitor and fellow swimmers may offer a slice of normalcy amid the tragedy, but it’s at the cost of an impactful denouement.

Connor Kelly Eiding and Ben Horwitz in DRY LAND. Photo by Darrett Sanders

While some may see this play as a call to arms regarding pro-life or pro-choice, it is not about abortion, just as Edward Albee’s Who is Sylvia? is not about a goat. Dry Land is about the inexplicable labyrinth of human sexuality and what constitutes a true, loving friendship; it’s about choices we make that seem destined to us by fate, and the fateful ramifications which are supplied to the choices we have already made.

Connor Kelly Eiding and Teagan Rose in DRY LAND.

Jenny Soo and Teagan Rose in DRY LAND. Photo by Darrett Sandersphotos by Darrett Sanders

Dry Land
The Echo Theatre Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave in Atwater Village
Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 4 & 7
ends on May 15, 2016 EXTENDED to May 28, 2016
for tickets, call 310-307-3753
or visit Echo Theater Company

plays the Kirk Douglas Theatre
May 12-21, 2017
presented by Center Theatre Group
for tickets, visit CTG

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