Written by Daniella Litvak
Some plays let you escape. For at least a couple of hours, you are no longer worried about the assignments you missed, the depressing news stories you heard, or the dread of slogging through another yet another week. The play might even give some degree of optimism you can take with you to remember when things get rough. Then there are the plays that shove your fears and worries back in your face. Living Out falls into the second category.
Ana (Lauren Villalobos) has come to Los Angeles from war-ravaged El Salvador. Unfortunately she had to leave her first-born son behind. In order to save enough money to get her U.S. citizenship papers, bring her son to the states and support both her husband –Bobby (Joseph Zavala) – and the second-born son currently living with her, she has been applying for nanny positions. Enter Nancy (Summer Ruley) and Richard (Sean Casey Flanagan), who just had a baby girl. Nancy has decided to go back to her corporate law job, so they hire Ana. What follows is a story about two women trying to balance their professional and personal lives.
The play has two acts, and each act has multiple scenes. Due to the multiple locations and time passage between scenes, the stage has to go dark a lot to allow the crew to prepare the next scene. The crew is efficient at getting these transitions done quickly. The scene breaks plus the slowly building plot give the show a slice of life, vignette quality.
The characters play to stereotypes, but the show typically generates humor from these clichés. Even when the characters act annoying, they are not annoying to watch. It is a given that non-leading characters bear the brunt of the stereotypes the most. Still, I like the supporting characters of Sandra (Adriana Rodriguez) Zoila (Monique Magpayo) Wallace (Emma Dayton Petersen) and Linda (Taylor M Hartsfield) for being foils to Ana and Nancy, for the world building their presence creates, and for the humor they bring.
Surprisingly what is not stereotypical is the relationships between the husbands and wives. Yes, Bobby acts controlling at times, and –inevitably –Nancy accuses Richard of infidelity. But the characters don’t give up on each other. They talk about the issues, which is refreshing.
I wish the relationship between Ana and Nancy was as developed. Theirs is the show’s central relationship, but the script doesn’t really let them have deep conversations. Even when Nancy helps Ana out with immigration, the focus of the scene is more on Ana and Bobby, and it’s played for laughs instead of drama. Due to this, the friendship moment between Ana and Nancy towards the end feels unearned.
Probably the show’s best pairing is Ana and Richard. Flanagan is a delight in all his scenes. But in his scene with Ana, he’s charmingly dorky while also conveying his frustration with his wife’s absence. Villalobes reacts perfectly –staying calm while it’s obvious she wants nothing more than for the earth to swallow her up.
It’s not surprising that one of the best scenes involves a character loosening up and trying to convince another to do the same because the show itself is too restrained for its own good. A little more conflict and wackiness would have taken the show to another level. Still Living Out has quite a lot of entertaining moments. It’s thought provoking, and the crying baby sound effects don’t make you feel the need to cover your ears.
March 4 – 19, 2016
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