It has been a brilliant six months for female playwrights and actors in Greater Los Angeles. Fine productions featuring terrific scripts and great roles for women abound. Ones that come immediately to mind are Rapture, Blister Burn, Burn, The How and the Why, and The Ithaca Ladies Read Medea, all at the industrious Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro. Add to that Gulag Mouse at Sacred Fools, One Woman Gone Wrong at Theatre West, Karen Rizzo’s Mutual Philanthropy at Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Karen Zacarías’ Destiny of Desire at South Coast Rep. And there are surely more. There is so much great theatre in Southern California that one person cannot see it all.
Add to the list the remarkable Sharon Sharth’s Waiting for Grace, now playing at Odyssey Theatre. This playwright/actor has crafted a fast-paced comedy that delineates the modern feminine conundrum of a mature career woman in her late thirties and early forties named Grace. Grace yearns for the classic role of wife and mother, but can’t find a suitable guy among the many “Joes” who come in and out of her life, all of whom disappoint her. She wants a man who will love and cherish her, and offer marriage so she can conceive a child before the biological clock runs out. She is tormented with self-doubt and seeks the aid of therapists, and friends, as well as the advice of her mother and father.
Under the direction of Lee Costello, Ms. Sharth delivers a dazzling performance with energy, consummate emotion and magnificent humor, surrounded by a first-rate supporting cast of protean actors who take on multiple roles. Jeff LeBeau is first-rate as several distinct iterations of “Joe,” feckless men who can’t commit. Pamela Dunlap scores as a no-nonsense life coach and Grace’s mother, while Bob Telford is excellent as her nose-in-the-newspaper Dad who knows more than he shows, as well as a bunch of creepy, chauvinistic older Joes. Lily Knight is sympathetic as a doctor and Sharon’s friend. Todd Babcock delivers an appealing, delightfully understated performance as David, a last chance guy whose smooth talk and affectionate ways makes an audience root for him.
The production is lean and precise with a simple set by Pete Hickok consisting of moveable white and blue architectural panels, a small, matching table, and easily moved black chairs, all suitably lit by Donny Jackson. Costumes by Michael Mullen are right for character and action, as is the sound design by David B. Marling.
Waiting for Grace is a serious, delightful comedy that is hilarious and touching with a tour-de-force performance by its playwright and star, Sharon Sharth. See this show; you will be happy!
Waiting for Grace, produced by Racquel Lehrman and Theatre Planners, is a guest production at Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles, and runs through December 11.