Set in the humble living room of a lower middle class home somewhere in Texas, Deb Hiett’s new play, The Super Variety Match Bonus Round!, is a seventy-five minute wonder. A retired couple, Ernest “Erns” Eagleton (Mark L. Taylor) and his wife Mags (Bonnie Bailey-Reed), lead a cramped life bound up by grief over their only son, a soldier back from the war who, tormented by PTSD, committed suicide two years prior. Mags (short for Margaret) sits in a chair in front of the TV and needs to ground herself occasionally with a routine of touching objects to regain reality. Erns, in a way has it worse, since he has to care for his wife while maintaining the house. He loves Mags and tries to coax her out of her crabbed existence of grief and into a life of more spirit and enjoyment. The two performers are superb together, totally credible as a long-married couple who clearly love each other while struggling to find a way to move forward out of their grief.
Erns is a clear thinker and able to adapt to new circumstances. He is learning Spanish, encouraged by the Latina letter carrier, Dolores (Paula Christensen), because he sees it as an advantage in a world where Spanish speakers are on the rise. In order to bring in a little more money to subsidize their fixed income, and much to Mags distress, Erns has booked a guest into a spare bedroom through a website like AirBnB.
Their new temporary lodger is an androgynous college student sporting the improbable moniker, Chrz (vivacious Victoria Ortiz) who has come to attend a big concert nearby. Mags is flummoxed. “Are you a boy or a girl?” she asks in consternation. No cogent reply is forthcoming. Chrz is enthusiastic and good-natured. On the way out the door to hitch a ride to the concert, Chrz sprinkles a little white powder into the older couple’s applesauce. Hmmm…what could it be?
In a wonderful bit of theatre magic thanks to the splendid scenic design of Stephanie Kerley Schwartz (lighting by Jared A. Sayed), the humble living room is quickly and completely transformed into an hallucinogenic TV studio for a Latino game show called “It’s a Scary, Scary World,” where Erns and Mags are the bewildered contestants. Paula Christensen has morphed into the game show host, while a now-busty Victoria Ortiz all dressed up in gold lamé, takes on the Vanna White role of game show cheerleader. The two of them dance up a sexy storm with the tight choreography created by the playwright.
Under the keen direction of Cameron Watson, The Super Variety Match Bonus Round! is a delicious, face-paced comedy with a soft, touching heart that comes around full circle—a classic necessity—to a very satisfying conclusion. Chris Moscatiello’s sound design is impeccable as always and Kate Bergh’s costumes enhance character and action.
Rogue Machine’s production of The Super Variety Match Bonus Round! runs at 8:30pm Saturdays and Mondays, 3pm on Sundays through December 19 at The Met, 1089 N Oxford Ave, Los Angeles.