Over its thirty-year existence Open Fist Theatre Company has produced a lot of bold theatre in Los Angeles, new plays and revivals. Its annual Christmas delight, Both, a musical retelling of the Christmas story set to the tunes of the Beatles, is simply brilliant. Other recent hits are Under Milk Wood, Dancing at Lunasa, and the hilarious, over-the-top joy of Neil Simon’s Musical Fools. Its current production, Rorschach Fest, consists of five short plays performed in nonconsecutive rotating rep over an eight-week run and cleverly entitled, Inkblot A, Inkblot B, and Inkblot C.
Inkblot C features two short plays by Caryl Churchill. This is a Chair (directed by Martha Demson) consists of ultra-short vignettes performed by two or three characters. This is an exercise in incompleteness. The characters talk but never finish the thought, leaving it to hang in the air. An older couple (Debba Rofheart and Alexander Wells) misfire on a date. A gay couple (David Shofner and Steven Rosenbaum) squabble. A middle-aged couple (Art Hall and Dionna Veremis) try to get a child (Carmella Jenkins) to eat. Two guys (Neil Oktay and Schuyler Mastain) saw a man throw himself over a balcony to the horror of a young woman (Emma Bruno) who blames them. And there are more short, short scenes. Meanwhile, upstage, each vignette is given a title projected on a giant, lofty screen with “This is a Chair” being the first, which tantalizes the audience before the action begins. Each vignette has its own title projection, but all I can recall is “Death in Bosnia.” Mea culpa! And I couldn’t quite get the connection between the titles and the action on stage.
The next playlet, Here We Go (directed by Matthew McCray), is all about death. It takes place after a funeral. Each of the guests (Megan Brotherton, Carmella Jenkins, Schuyler Mastain, Debba Rofheart, David Shofner, Casey Sullivan, Alexander Wells, and AlgeRita Wynn ) gets a spotlight in which they tell how much time they had before they died, and the means by which they died. Then, upstage, the deceased (Alberto Isaac) appears on a platform behind a scrim and a lively ghost he turns out to be. He is a well-off guy confused by his situation. He goes though a lot of angst as the funeral-goers act as a sort of ghostly chorus. This goes on for a good long time. Then the dead guy, now a shuffling oldster, steps onto the platform with the help of a care provider (Carmella Jenkins) who sits him down and helps him to change into different clothes, a process repeated three times. He finally winds up flat in bed and…scene! I liked much of This is a Chair, but Here We Go frankly tried my patience and I left the theatre utterly bemused.
The creatives have done a fine job throughout Inkblot A, B, and C. They are scenic designer Jan Munroe; lighting designer Matt Richter (assisted by Kaitlin Chang); sound designer Tim Labor; property master Bruce Dickinson; fight choreographer Emma Bruno; and dialect coach Ellen Bergener. Jennifer Palumbo manages the stage like the true trouper she is.
The Open Fist production of Rorschach Fest continues through April 5 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles. Click on this link for exact dates and times: https://www.lucypr.com/Projects/Web/Rorschach_Calendar_Feb-March-April.pdf.
Ink Blots A and B are reviewed at https://paulmyrvoldstheatrenotes.wordpress.com/2020/03/07/rorschach-fest-inkblot-a-ghosts-at-open-fist-theatre/, and https://paulmyrvoldstheatrenotes.wordpress.com/2020/03/03/rorschach-fest-inkblot-b-at-open-fist-theatre/