In her semi-autobiographical new play, Last Call, television writer Anne Kenney (Switched at Birth, Hellcats, Greek, L.A. Law and, most recently, the first three seasons of Outlander) has crafted a domestic drama situated in drug-addicted Ohio, where the elderly parents of an LA TV writer, Jill (Laura Richardson), are in the final stages of life. 85-year-old Walter (fierce, bitter Ben Martin) has been falling down and can only get around with the help of a wheeled walker. He is angered by his situation and lashes out against those around him, save for his beloved wife, 83-year-old Frances (adorable Lynn Milgrim), who suffers with a sweet dementia that does not allow her to keep her thoughts straight for very long. Jill has flown in from California determined to get her parents into an assisted living facility where the couple can be cared for as they creep inexorably towards death. Walter will have none it. It is clear that the dysfunction of this family works from the head down.
Jill has an edgy sharpness in her demeanor. Her TV success has evaporated and she shifts between love of family and angry self-loathing. Her younger, thirty-something brother, Ricky (Art Hall), a drug addict in recovery, is forced to sleep in a screened-in porch because his dad won’t allow him to stay in the house, even as the old coot calls for him when he falls. Spicing this family stew, Jade (Bronte Scoggins), a delightful sixteen-year-old who made a connection with Ricky in the rehab facility and is now some months pregnant, shows up in the house, and, with surprising ease, slips into the family circle. There is enough mordant humor in Last Call to label it a dramedy, but as the action swirls to a shocking climax, the show is difficult to watch, and is only saved by the strange, winsome relationship of Ricky, Jade, and, ultimately, Jill. An endearing slide show at the end is not enough of a dénoument to ameliorate the unease of this audience member.
The appearance of Annette (Stephanie Crothers), a pleasant, sincere representative of one of the care facilities, seems like a benevolent alien from another galaxy compared to this family. Bryan Bertone as a small town detective rounds out the cast.
Last Call is directed by Lane Allison, who also designed the set along with technical director Jan Munroe, and consultant James Spencer. The creative team also includes lighting designer Ellen Monocroussos, sound designer Peter Carlstedt, co-prop masters Bruce Dickinson, Ina Shumaker and Dionna Veremis, and graphic designer Mark Harbeke. The production stage manager is Jennifer Palumbo.
Produced for Open Fist Theatre Company by Katie May Porter, Last Call runs through February 23 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.