I like my comedy black, and the blacker the better. Amy Dellagiarino’s new play, The Value of Moscow, now playing at Sacred Fools, fits my predilection like an Armani suit. The relevance of the title to the action spools out with satisfying coyness, when three sisters enter from the snowy cold to unpack forty or more boxes of stuff into the apartment they are to occupy. It is clear at the outset that these women have issues, both personal and sororal. The effervescent Rose (Madeleine Heil), a first grade teacher, attempts to organize the unpacking with forced cheerfulness, in the face of glowering sister Emily (Tiffany Cole on the evening I attended), and morose Clara (Julie Bersani). Why are these ill-fitting siblings moving in together? Each suffers from the results of individual crises. Emily is a writing-blocked novelist taking a break from her marriage. Clara is just out of hospital after a botched suicide attempt. And Rose tries her darnedest to keep the fractured family together.
Fueled by a terrific script, the actors, under the smart, fast-paced direction of Carrie Keranen, seethe with wicked, hilarious banter as their individual natures are revealed. The sister act is tested with the arrival on a snowmobile of a pizza deliveryman, Cliff (Ryan Gowland on the evening I attended), who gets more attention than he bargained for. And later, Clara’s Irish Mafia boyfriend, Jimbo (Andres Paul Ramacho), shows up banging on the door. All get swept up in a delicious maelstrom of gallows humor farce. For those wondering about the title, cast your thoughts in the direction of dramatic literature. We are not in Moscow, Idaho.
Produced with wonderful simplicity and cunning stagecraft, The Value of Moscow boasts a scenic design by Aaron Francis, light and sound by Matthew Richter, and costumes and props by Linda Muggeridge. The stage is managed with authority by Billy Baker.
As my companion and I moved out of the intimate auditorium, through the tiny lobby, and out to the street, I started a giggle that morphed to a guffaw and led to laughter that carried around the corner and halfway down Lillian Way before it subsided. I am still smiling.
Produced for Sacred Fools by Marisa O’Brien, The Value of Moscow runs through Saturday, December 8 in the Second Stage at The Broadwater Theater Complex, 1076 Lillian Way in Los Angeles.