by Peter Foldy
Rogue Machine’s production of Samuel D. Hunter’s play, POCATELLO currently playing at the Met Theatre in Los Angeles deals with dysfunctionality and the corporatization of America. Set in a nation-wide Italian restaurant on the brink of closing down, the play brings together a group of characters who struggle with the changing landscape of their hometown and the shifting and fragile relationships they endure with their families and co-workers. They find it hard to communicate with each other and some have not been able to let go of the demons of the past that continues to haunt them.
At the center of the play is Eddie, the restaurant manager (Matthew Elkins) who juggles two secrets. His sexuality and the fact that the business is on the brink of going under. His crotchety mother, Doris, (Anne Gee Byrd) a woman unable to show affection, does everything in her power to put Eddie down in front of his bother, Nick (Rob Nagel) Nick’s pretty wife, Kelly (Rebecca Larsen) as well as Eddie’s employees.
We also meet a waiter named Troy (Justin Okin) who struggles to make ends meet while trying to deter his alcoholic wife, Tammy (Tracie Lockwood) from drinking again. He also has to cope with his senile father (Mark L. Taylor) and his cryptic wild child of a daughter named Becky (Eden Brolin).
Also working at the restaurant is the crack addicted and otherwise unemployable waiter, Max (Trevor Peterson) and his occasional sex buddy, Isabelle (at this performance played by Melissa Paladino).
As the eatery approaches it’s demise, so does the connection between the characters. Nick and Kelly leave Pocotello promising never to return. Tammy slips and drifts back into drinking again while her daughter, Becky realizes she must escape Pocatello as soon as she is able.
John Perrin Flynn’s direction moves the characters on Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s beautifully designed set like pawns on a chessboard. Each and every cast member in Pocotello shines. They are highly committed and believable in their respective roles. With such great actors portraying these lost souls one would think that Mr. Hunter’s script would help us care about their problems just a little more, but sadly his characters find it a struggle to articulate them. I wanted to know why Troy and Tammy’s marriage is failing. Is it just the booze? Why does Nick seem to hate his brother, Eddie so much? Is it because he is gay? What happened between these people?
While sometimes less is more, in this case more would have been a blessing. What we end up with is a mash up of explosive outbursts, family psychodrama and nostalgic monologues about days gone by.
At the end of the day only the kind-hearted Eddie manages to find some redemption, leaving us with a glimmer of hope that Eddie and mom have taken a small step toward normalizing their fragile relationship in a town where nothing is normal anymore.
Pocotello ends up feeling much like a turbulent Thanksgiving dinner with your family. Love them or hate them you may one day look back with nostalgia at the event, perhaps even grateful for having been there.
POCATELLO runs at 8:30pm on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and 3pm on Sundays through April 10, 2016. ROGUE MACHINE is located at The Met, 1089 N. Oxford Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029.
Tickets are $34.99.
Reservations: 855-585-5185 or at www.roguemachinetheatre.com
Photos by John Perrin Flynn