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Elemeno Pea

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Molly Smith Metzler

COMPANY : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Horizon Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
ID# 4564

SHOWING : March 14, 2014 - April 13, 2014

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Summer’s ending on Martha’s Vineyard, but before everything is shuttered, Simone invites her sister Devon down for a sisters weekend. As personal assistant to demanding trophy wife Michaela Kell, Simone enjoys a lavish, beachfront lifestyle that the girls never could have imagined growing up in blue-collar Buffalo. But, within minutes of Devon’s arrival, Michaela crashes the party. She and her husband have had a fight, and she’s counting on Simone to help her keep from becoming Ex-Wife Number Two. Throw in the disgruntled groundskeeper Jos-B (because there’s already a Jose) and Simone’s delusional, old money boyfriend Ethan, and the lines are drawn between the rich and “the help.”

Worlds collide in this fast and furious comedy about ambition, class, family and the choices that shape who we become.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Heidi Cline
Simone Cynthia D. Barker
Ethan Adam Fristoe
Jos-B Tony Guerrero
Michaela Cara Mantella
Devon Tiffany Porter
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REVIEWS

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An Element o’ S***
by playgoer
Saturday, April 5, 2014
2.5
I didn’t buy a moment of Molly Smith Metzler’s "Elemeno Pea." All the characters are unlikeable, unbelievable, or both. The play is apparently based on the playwright’s own experience working on Martha’s Vineyard, but she has used a box of crayons as her tools to paint a portrait of the rich privileged and their servants. It’s striking and colorful, but superficial in the worst possible way. How artistic director Lisa Adler has the audacity to call this an "honest" story I am at a loss to understand. Being sensationalistic and being honest are two different things. I see only one of them in this play.

The following contains spoilers. I don’t have enough respect for the script to want to conceal its regularly apportioned secrets.

Five characters populate the play:
1) Simone, a Yale-educated novelist who is working (for a six-figure salary) as executive assistant to the wife of a wealthy estate owner, to whom she is devoted up until the end of the play, when her boyfriend gives her an opportunity to leave on a round-the-world cruise, which, for no explained reason, has to begin that very night.

2) Devon, her older sister, who traveled cross-country to marry an unseen porn addict, then returned to live with her mother three months later. Devon got 1580 on her SATs (presumably out of 1600), but was put in remedial classes as a child due to her inability to distinguish L, M, N, O, and P as separate letters in the alphabet. She now works in an Olive Garden, but is visiting her sister. She’s articulate, socially aware, and has difficulty holding her tongue. I guess she’s supposed to be the "good" one in the play, but she comes off as rude and boorish.

3) Michaela, the wife of the estate’s owner, who rose from a hardscrabble background in upstate New York to become an Ivy League lawyer, and is now just a socialite wife. She had a late-term abortion of a dwarf fetus, for which her husband plans to divorce her. She is frantic that any divorce settlement won’t allow her to continue her lifestyle. She is superficially polite, with a passive-aggressive streak a mile wide. I think our sympathies are supposed to head in her direction by the end of the play, but she seems awfully passive for someone who supposedly made a life for herself before marrying and who ran six miles home on the beach after being abandoned at an airport.

4) Jos-B, the estate caretaker, who is treated shabbily by both Simone and Michaela, but appears to them to be happy in his position. His name is a variation of Jose, but since there was already a Jose (Jos-A) on staff, he’s been dubbed Jos-B. (Cue the laugh track!!) By the end of the play, he is openly insolent.

5) Ethan, a rich friend of Michaela and her husband, who has taken up with Simone in a romantic relationship. He is a comic caricature of the idle rich, very much like the Kyle MacLachlan character in "How I Met Your Mother," only with far less depth. He is apparently a trust fund baby, with no need to work for a living.

The script is peppered with four-letter words, apparently in an attempt to appear modern and shocking. It attempts to make comic fodder of the distinction between the colors pink and salmon, which seems to be a hot idea this season. It was genuinely funny in ART Station’s "Making God Laugh," but here it is smarmy and leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. The whole play does.

Technically, the show has its merits. Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay have designed appropriate costumes. Their set has a beachy, upper-crust design, with an elegant inlaid wood floor (that apparently is the thinnest of veneers, to judge by the fact that the painted step around it has paint going right to the top, with no demarcation of any trim around the wood). Mary Parker’s lighting design doesn’t do the set any favors. It illuminates the interior of the oversized fireplace distinctly, letting us see that the faux brick is faux. Jarring lighting changes occur for sunset on the backdrop, with puckers on the backdrop causing some unfortunate shadows.

The actors are all fine, investing their characters with lots of life. Director Heidi Cline McKerley has staged their actions to keep the pace going at a nice clip until the script decides an extended denouement is needed. She hasn’t directed them to make coherent sense of the disparate elements of their characters and histories, which, given the script, is probably an impossible task. There’s a cartoon feel to the whole thing, which works against the dramatic turn the script takes near the end.

This is a professionally mounted production of a play that Horizon had apparently been attempting to get the rights to for two years. The play is constructed by the book, with running gags and with hints of upcoming revelations dropped at appropriate intervals, but the intermissionless running time is a little too long for comfort. (How else to explain the standing ovation the show got at the performance I saw, despite people talking and snoring in the audience and multiple members walking out for breaks?)
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