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Looking for the Pony

a World Premiere
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Andrea Lepcio

COMPANY : Synchronicity Performance Group [WEBSITE]
VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 3302

SHOWING : February 06, 2009 - March 00, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Eloisa is finally ready to leave a lifeless career in finance to pursue a childhood dream when her sister Lauren is diagnosed with breast cancer. Lauren's perfect life and Eloisa's second chance collide as the sisters join forces to cure all that ails them. As funny as it is heart-breaking, 'Looking for the Pony' is a roller-coaster ride through treatment, ambition, loss and acceptance.


CAST & CREW LIST
Writer/Composer Andrea Lepcio
Director Lisa M. Rothe
Sound design Chris Bartelski
Lighting design Jessica Coale
Production manager Nina Gooch
Technical director Robert Hadaway
Props design Corrie Haislip
Assistant stage manager Laura Meyer
Costume design Nyrobi Moss
Set design Tiffany Scribner
Cast John Benzinger
Cast Suehyla El-Attar
Cast Jennifer Levison
Cast Stacy Melich
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Step-By-Stepsisters
by Dedalus
Friday, March 13, 2009
4.5
The world is divided into those who can face Adversity with a song in their heart and those who can find Adversity in a simple song. Andrea Lepcio’s “Looking for the Pony” is a moving play about two step-sisters who fall into the first camp, and a celebration of the spirit that won’t cede the skirmish even after Adversity has already won the war.

This play may remind many of you of Susan Miller’s “My Left Breast,” presented two years ago by 7 Stages, as it did me. And, to contribute to the sense of déjà vu, the star of the Miller play, Stacy Melich, also appears here. In both plays, a woman battles breast cancer, as characters directly address the audience, with minor characters doubled up in the hands a couple protean character actors. Where the plays differ is that “My Left Breast” was a survivor’s tale, a story of a trek towards remission. Here, though, the result is harsher, (and paradoxically more optimistic). Here, the focus is on the family and friends who help on the journey, and who must inevitably be left behind. And because here, we see other characters who have their own journeys, their own deaths, it becomes a broader tapestry of life, and a richer experience for that. I often have negative feeling about plays that remind me too much of other plays, but here, I found “Looking for the Pony” a more compelling, more involving experience (which is not to diminish “My Left Breast,” which still holds a fond place in my memory).

Loosely based on playwright Lepcio’s own experiences with her sister’s illness and death, “Looking for the Pony” is really the survivor’s story. Suehyla El-Attar is a vibrant and memorable Elouisa (“Ouisie”), a struggling accountant trying to jump-start a writing career. When her step-sister Lauren (Jennifer Levison) announces the news of her critical illness, Ouisie has to balance the demands of career and school, all the while satisfying her own need to “help out” her sister, who lives on the opposite side of the country. Both sisters are sunny and optimistic, and we see many scenes of their “growing up” time, a time of step-sisterly alliance against a distant and demanding father (“There is no crying!”). No matter how dark things get, they always find time for a laugh, a hug, a memory. Lauren shares in Ouisie’s growing success as a writer, Ouisie shares Lauren’s success as a social worker. Throughout, we see stylized skirmishes with puzzled doctors, cold nurses, bureaucratic petty tyrants, and caring friends. (I especially liked the lawyer and the insurance agent donning boxing gloves for their “negotiation.”)

Stacey Melich and John Benzinger play all the supporting roles, mostly to a wonderful degree of accuracy. The only exception was a really short section where they were going through a quick succession of characters, and were almost finished before I realized there were different characters being portrayed. I really liked Ms. Melich’s constantly-sobbing assistant to Lauren, and Mr. Benzinger’s Sol, an elderly client facing his own mortality.

There were so many memorable moments in this piece it’s hard to keep count – Ouisie’s recounting of the story that gives the play it’s title, the aforementioned sparring match between Lawyer and Insurance Agent, the flashback scene where a very young Ouisie interrupts Lauren’s teenage date, the scene where Ouisie moves a black ribbon to her right lapel (indicating that Lauren is irreplaceable), the constant tossing in the air of Ouisie’s writing (though it was obvious from the audience that the pages were Xeroxed play scripts, not the stories and essays the script said they were – a forgivable quibble), the crying scenes of characters raised to NEVER cry, the constant refrain of “1440 One, two , three, go” (we can’t help but live minute-by-minute).

And centering the whole thing was Ms. El-Attar’s luminous Elouisa, carrying a smile that could light up the entire South, no matter what Adversity pulls out of its nasty little bag of tricks. This is a performance to remember, one that gives this story shape, substance, and fire, and one that delivers multiple emotional punches and pleasures. I loved everything she did.

I do have to gripe about a few jarring lighting cues (which, to be fair, came across more like equipment malfunctions than “operator error”), and I wasn’t sure what the fluorescent light embedded in the floor added to the design (it was used in both hospital/institutional settings and in warmer domestic settings, so the concept eluded me). Other than these minor squawks, the design worked, and director Lisa Rothe has staged a smooth-flowing, fast-paced journey that I was happy to witness.

So, the question remains – is it better to play in the poop, searching for a pony that doesn’t exist, or to sit in the stench and the darkness, bemoaning your outcast state? At the end of the day, there is only one sane answer. And, sooner or later, no matter who we are, it will be the end of the day.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

Afternote: I have a very close friend facing a similar (that is to say, identical) fate as Lauren. Last summer, her father was failing into age and debility. Yet, they both had the optimism to make serious wagers on “who will go first.” She lost the bet, by which I mean, she’s still with us. I really should call to see how she is.


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