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Stage Page: Rainbow Bridge Shari Barrett | Fri, Aug 18 2017 12:05 AM

Rainbow Bridge’ exists at intersection of Satire and Reality

During their second decade of bringing L.A. audiences unique and original entertainment, Ruskin Group Theatre continues to celebrate the essence of arts and humanity, within the microcosm of theatre, continually supporting new writers and the development of new plays. Its latest production. THE RAINBOW BRIDGE is a new comedy by Ron Nelson, who has written for several television shows and movies, including Rosanne, Real Monsters, Sparks, Dilbert and A Perfect Christmas. He is also an active member of the state bar.

“The Rainbow Bridge” is described as the place where our pets go once they leave us and where they will be waiting for us when our time comes. In Nelson’s 80-minute comedy, portrays the conflicted, haunted lawyer Jerry, a dutiful son who has brought his mother’s former well-loved pet dog, the terminally-ill Charlie, to his veterinarian Dr. Stein. It is Charlie’s time to cross over the rainbow bridge. At the performance I attended, Hannah Kaiser stepped into the role of veterinarian Dr. Stein, normally played by Jaimi Paige. The good doctor has her own problems being put in the role of animal killer, often suffering pangs of regret at what she must do, for a hefty price of course. 

To ease her anguish, the horny, inappropriate Dr. Stein’s professionalism slips as she makes the moves on her semi-grieving client Jerry. He in turn, consoles the beautiful, yet insecure and lonely doctor instead of the more proper process of the vet consoling the sorrowful pet owner. But when the good doctor walks out of the room to allow Jerry a few minutes alone with Charlie, the lights flicker and Jerry's Mom Lois (Lynne Marie Stewart) and sister Amanda (Mary Carrig) appear in the examination room.

We soon learn that only Jerry can see or hear them as they're ghosts, both having recently crossed the rainbow bridge themselves — on the same date in fact. And of course, using great Jewish guilt, they proceed to torment poor Jerry into believing he is having a nervous breakdown.

The two continue to follow Jerry to various locations, tormenting his emotional well-being along the way, especially when it comes to his relationship with his wife Karen (Emily Jerez) and legal client Theodore (L. Emille Thomas), an admitted arsonist. It is then that Lois comes up with a plan she believes her son will take on in order to get rid of her and Amanda – kill her ex-lover’s wife Harriet Feldman (Mouchette Van Helsdingen), a semi-invalid who now lives alone. The idea shocks Jerry, but given the state of his life, he agrees and drafts Theodore to help him carry out the deadly deed. But when one of them has a change of

, this fearless new comedy directed by Michael Myers, mercilessly seeks out and pushes any of those psychological hot buttons that aren’t hidden, especially when it comes to dealing with your family.  Playwright Ron Nelson explains that “after having to deal with some awful stuff a few years ago, I was inspired to write something humorous, based on working through it all. Laughter sets the spirit free, it’s sort of like a vitamin for the soul.”

But while the short play does generate lots of laughs, unfortunately it is presented more like a workshop rather than a full theatrical production, with actors doing fine work. But, more often than not, we see them screaming their lines more as caricatures than fully realized people. Also disappointing was the scenic design by Hillary Bauman consisting of little more than assorted strips of fabric tacked on the walls which were quickly re-folded into different colors to reflect scene changes. This surprised me as most plays at the Ruskin are performed on intricately designed sets. 

But after all, the play is a comedy and all things should work out in the end, right? Or will they? I’m not telling!

“The Rainbow Bridge” continues at 8 p.m. Fridays – Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 17. Ruskin Group Theatre is lat 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, seniors, and guild members) and can be purchased in advance by calling 310-397-3244 or online at ruskingrouptheatre.com. Ample free parking available on site.  

 

 

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