Theater Review: TOO MUCH SUN (Indie Chi Productions at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles)

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by Samuel Garza Bernstein on March 4, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles


If Chekov’s characters could be said to be trapped by society, circumstance, and their own neuroses, the characters in playwright Nicky Silver’s Too Much Sun, now at the Odyssey Theatre, are more spoiled for choice. Money and opportunities give them physical possibilities; the guilt of those who have failed them and their unquestioning faith in their own specialness allow them to flourish outside society’s norms.


They are privileged, clever, and discontented. They are also never boring.

Kitty and Dennis are summering on Cape Cod. She is a teacher on break. He is an ad-man, taking extra time off work, with vague plans to write a book. They are not particularly compatible or loving but their marriage has an easy, seemingly uncomplicated rhythm.

Kitty’s mother, Audrey, is a famous stage actress of a certain age who has walked out of a Chicago production of Medea the day before it is supposed to open. She arrives for an indeterminate stay and causes chaos that is predictable at first but blossoms into something unexpectedly freeing.

The next-door neighbors, rich, retired Winston and his pot-dealer son Lucas, grow entangled in Audrey, Dennis, and Kitty’s lives; as does Gil, a goofy agent’s assistant who is tasked with getting Audrey back to Chicago, but dreams of studying to become a rabbi.

Everyone sleeps with the wrong person at one point or another. The couplings aren’t narratively surprising in and of themselves. I don’t think they are meant to be. Things turning messy aren’t Mr. Silver’s plot reveals, but his catalysts, leading us to the tragedies and transformations that allows the characters to arrive at love that is clear-eyed and mature.

This is a fine piece of work. The text is a bit more expository than it needs to be here and there, and there is an epilogue that feels unnecessary, but Silver forges an involving and emotionally expansive world in the zone where comedy and drama meet. And he astutely explores the possibilities marriage might hold for characters passing their middle years.

Audrey is the engine that drives the play and Diane Cary is more than up to filling her four-inch heels. In her opening scene rehearsing Medea, you can imagine Audrey being electric, awful, or some combination of both. Perfection. Ms. Cary makes Audrey charmingly scattered, and lets the character’s inner sacred monster emerge organically, modulating her selfishness and generosity of spirit.

The other standout is Bailey Edwards as Lucas. The character is created out of equal parts angst and anguish. It’s the role that could most easily careen into soap opera in the wrong hands, but Mr. Edwards is restrained — allowing us to half-believe the character when he feigns blasé indifference but to also feel his torment.

Autumn Reeser as Kitty, Bryan Langlitz as Dennis, and Clint Jordan as Winston are excellent. Each captures the playwright’s tone of longing mixed with inertia; his humor and his pathos. Joe Gillette makes Gil adorably geeky, never overdoing the character’s comic confusion.

Director Bart DeLorenzo expertly calibrates the changing emotional tones that give the play its resonance and impact. I am less taken with Mr. DeLorenzo’s staging on scenic designer Alex M. Calle’s lovely but static set. The giant deck of Kitty and Dennis’s Cape Cod rental dominates the stage, leaving little room for the scenes that take place elsewhere on the beach, and forcing the actors to make awkward entrances and exits extreme upstage left and right. I would like to feel a sense of the physical expansiveness the characters feel.

In thinking about the ending and what I take from the play, it occurs to me why the epilogue feels extraneous. What happens to these people isn’t what makes the journey memorable. What matters most is that they choose to take action at all — in lives defined by static if dully bearable unhappiness.

photos by Jeff Lorch

Too Much Sun
Indie Chi Productions
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd in West L.A.
Thurs–Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on April 21, 2019 EXTENDED to April 28
for tickets, call 310.477.2055 or visit Odyssey

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