“Penelope” — yet another evocative production from the Rogue Machine Theatre on Pico Blvd. Los Angeles. The setting is a macabre backyard , much kudos to scenic director Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, a pool, run down with blood stains, and a symbolic, foreboding barbecue pit. Enter the scene, the four main characters, each donning bathrobes (Richard Fancy; Ron Bottitta; Scott Sheldon; and Brian Letscher). At first look, it appears a gay bathhouse, but we soon realize these four are in hell or purgatory. Their ensuing dialogue, as well as the burning barbecue, are quite telling, as the story unfolds. Masterful as always, actor’s actor Ron Bottitta is prolifically performing his 90th play, alongside the wonderful Richard Fancy; and the extremely talented Scott Sheldon and Brian Letscher. They are all vying for the affections of Penelope (Holly Fulger), who only makes silent yet powerful appearances throughout the play, in the most critical of moments. A poetic conversation ensues, of who is most deserving of Penelope’s heart, a Greek tragedy version of the popular reality show, “The Bachelor,” as it were. They each offer a heartfelt soliloquy of who is most deserving and worthy of her merit. A Herb Alpert jazz classic plays, as a segue between each scene, one of the show’s many great elements.
A multidimensional screen, portraying which character is next up at bat, to profess his love, is also quite effective. It almost seems like a competition staged at the Coliseum. And the talk transfigures from Shakesperean soliliquies to poetic, spontaneous rambling, quickly turning to who has the most magic touch. Much disrobing occurs onstage, not just physically, but their souls as well. This show reminds one of Sartre’s “No Exit,” and a little bit of “Caligula” as well. The writer of the play, Tony award winning Enda Walsh, was no doubt influenced by the Irish greats, Samuel Beckett and Dylan Thomas. This play is an extremely physical and intellectual tug-of-war, a mind boggling diaspora, leaving the audience as if they’ve actually accompanied the actors on a horrendous journey of the soul. One of the most striking moments of the play is when Quinn (Letscher) makes multiple appearances, as Napoleon Bonaparte; Marie Antoinette; and last but not least Rhett Butler.
The writing, acting, set design are all phenomenal, with an amazing reference to a symbolic presence, whose blood on the wall. is a reminder of the delicate and precarious nature of life and loss.
Through August 10th
Rogue Machine Theatre 5041 W Pico Blvd
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm; Sundays 3pm