Nicky Silver’s 2014 play, Too Much Sun, is not a predictable, linear progression of action with characters moving from point A to point B and so on, but is rather like a Jackson Pollack painting, an emotional splatter that has more structure than might be readily perceived. Start with the prologue, a brilliant hook that is, frankly, the best moment in the show. Audrey Langham (Diane Cary in a stellar performance), a high maintenance, theatrical diva dressed in red as Medea, emotes against an equally red curtain, on the eve of a Chicago opening. She loses her place several times in a dense speech, much to her mounting frustration. Prompted with teeth-gritting politeness by the god-mike, Audrey up and quits, leaving the production high and dry. Blackout.
Lights come up on a Cape Cod summer home, revealing Kitty (Autumn Reeser), Audrey’s daughter, and neighbor-boy, Lucas (Bailey Edwards), a lank, longhaired, college-bound teenager, who is the community’s pot dealer. It soon becomes clear that Audrey, in fleeing Chicago, has taken up residence in the cottage, for who knows how long, much to the frustration of Kitty and her husband, Dennis (Bryan Langlitz), a New Yorker who had intended to write the novel he has in his head in the guest room/office now occupied by the late-sleeping star for who-knows how long.
Enter the year-round, next-door neighbor, Winston (Clint Jordan), a mature gentleman of considerable wealth, who, upon meeting Audrey, glows with sexual desire in an inarticulate, country club, aw-shucks sort of way. Gil (droll, subtle Joe Gillette), the last character to appear, is the unhappily subordinate nephew of Audrey’s tyrannical agent, charged with bringing her back NOW! And, oh yes, Gil’s not-so-secret desire is the ambition of becoming a rabbi. With plenty of laughs, the sit-com cast is set, and it is on to darker matters and further complications.
And the complications are dark and serious. The five-times married Audrey responds to Winston, who loses his inhibitions and reveals some of his past. Kitty bares a justifiable, deep-seated animosity toward her mother. Dennis encounters Lucas on the beach where they exchange their personal stories, and more. The laughs, inevitably, are fewer as the play surges towards an emotional climax, and assuages with a touching dénoument.
The cast, under the sure hand of director Bart DeLorenzo, individually and as an ensemble, creates vivid, unique characters of considerable subtlety and intensity, easily standing up to the thousand-watt star power of Ms. Cary.
Too Much Sun boasts a fine set design by Alex M. Calle, with lighting by Rose Malone; sound design by Christopher Moscatiello; costume design by Michael Mullen; graphic design by Kiff Scholl; with casting by Kendra Clark and Helen Geier. The production stage manager is Michelle Hanzelova.
The West Coast premiere of Too Much Sun, produced by Andrew Carlberg and presented by Indie Chi Productions, is a visiting production running through April 21 at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in Los Angeles.