Theatre Review: All the (LA) World’s a Stage

review

Note: this article was also published on Neon Tommy.

“You Should Have Stayed Home, Morons”, written by Manuel Orjuela (part of the Radar L.A. Festival): seen September 26, 2013

“You Should Have Stayed Home, Morons,” by Manuel Orjuela, is a production built on the gimmick of moving from place to place rather than staying in a theatre. Consisting of four monologues spread out over three (well, three and a half) locations in downtown LA, the four stories are only loosely tied together by the broad theme of family relations. Whether it’s a mother and her daughter, a woman talking about fathers, a supposedly homeless man talking about the beatings in his life, or a father lecturing his young son about how he wants his child to have a successful life before he turns 15, the thread between the pieces is thin at best.

The production starts out strong. The first monologue, held in a dog park, is an interesting thought piece on opening up to the ideas of others. Cristina Fernandez plays a woman talking to her daughter (Augusta Hirsch) and the audience about the idea of ‘thinking with someone else’s head.’ There is a positive to this idea—”Who hasn’t lived half their life for someone else?” she asks at one point—but there’s also a negative, as the perils of thinking with someone else’s head also leads to losing oneself. Fernandez has the right level of intensity about being a mother, engaging with the audience as if she is speaking at a sermon or an AA meeting. She is fierce in her love of her daughter, and only hopes for the best.

As the audience walks to the second location, it becomes apparent that some of the surrounding people may actually be actors with the company observing their audience. A homeless man begs for change as the audience is led into a bar and encouraged to order a drink.

The second monologue is a drunk woman (Rachel Sorsa) talking about the “so-called family dynamic,” but this is the first time the use of different locations really starts to become distracting. A man at the bar (not listed in the program, so whether he was part of the show is ambiguous) comments during the piece about how “it’s all an act” and “she was better last time.” Considering that Sorsa’s drunkenness is a bit over the top and filled with drama, one can only hope so.

Photo courtesy Radar LA Festival.

As the audience is led to a third location, the guide stops to move a homeless man away from the front doors. As he starts a rant on giving the tour guide a beating, it crosses my mind that he looks an awful lot like the panhandler from the bar. After climbing to the third floor and being told to stand against the windows, the homeless man (Sal Lopez) starts shouting from the street, continuing on about beatings. “A beating is a dialogue,” he says at one point, but after a couple of minutes and a few repetitions of the same concepts, the monologue loses its power — get to the damn point.

The audeince is instructed to close the windows while Lopez is still somewhat mid-monologue, ending the fourth piece inside the apartment. Adam Lazarre-White starts talking to his son (Phillip Solomon), who looks to be about seven. He wants his son to be successful, which apparently translates to leaving school and going to work—tomorrow. He then goes on to tell a weird story about a pony that was difficult to understand the point of, and this is where having the play be location-based was the least successful. This monologue gained absolutely nothing from being in an apartment versus a theatre.

Gimmicks for the sake of being just a gimmick are never incredibly engaging or succesful. If one is going to attempt to create art that involves such a gambit, he ought to make sure there’s a reason beyond just to do something different.

While the idea of “You Should Have Stayed Home, Morons” is an interesting one, most of the piece could have been just as effective had it been played out on a stage. There didn’t seem to be a connection between the four monologues, and the locations distracted more times than added. The acting, for the most part, was well done, but was being constantly upstaged by the busy streets of downtown LA. While the show has potential, it ended up being little more than a change of scenery for the sake of trying something new.

“You Should Have Stayed Home, Morons” is playing through September 29 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center (514 S Spring Street, Los Angeles). Tickets are $15-$25. For more information visit the Radar L.A. website.

More coverage of the Radar L.A. Festival 2013 can be found here.