Playwright Rich Orloff lampoons the idealized 1950s America with his wacky play, Domestic Tranquility, now playing at Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro. Think of it as a cracked Father Knows Best with a dad who drives off to the office every day, a stay-at-home mom who cooks and dusts, and a teenaged daughter about to turn eighteen. They profess their earnest liking for each other with enthusiastic brittleness as they salute Ike and Mamie. Soon, however, the façade starts to crack. The dad, Herbert (Don Schlossman) is a domineering tax cheat, mom, Ethel (Shirley Hatton), a miserable former psychiatric patient, and, beneath her her flaring circle skirt skirt, daughter Cindy (Olivia Schlueter-Corey) is a simmering sexpot seething to sacrifice her virginity and be “a real woman.”
Into this faux scenario of domestic tranquility creep three escapees decked in prison stripes calling to mind Scrooge McDuck’s nemeses, the Beagle Boys. Lou (Bill Wolski) is the brains of the bunch, an admirer of movie bad guys like Edward G. Robinson’s Rico in Little Caesar. Tony (Ryan Knight), Lou’s younger brother, is a sweet-hearted fella who instantly becomes the focus of Cindy’s lust. And finally there is Spot (Daniel Tennant), an affectionate dog in human form with one eye blacked like the Little Rascal’s Pete the Pup. He is a lovable character not quite house broken who provides a huge amount of the many laughs in this production.
Under the direction of Holly Baker-Kreiswirth, the cast swings for the fences, goes for broke, pulls out the stops in madcap style. There is no subtlety here. The energy is manic. It is a style that suits the material.
The production is handsome with a scenic design by Bob Manning (lights by Stacey Abrams) that must do double duty as the set for Sleuth, which opens on March 10 and goes into rotating rep with Domestic Tranquility. Diana Mann’s costumes evoke the Eisenhower era and support character. Holly Baker-Kreiswirth’s soundscape features a playlist of mid-1950s popular songs that will be instantly, unforgettably familiar to people of a certain age. It’s a fine way of establishing period.
Domestic Tranquility runs through April 2 at Little Fish Theatre, 777 Centre Street, San Pedro.