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The Value of Moscow Reviewed by Terry Morgan
Sacred Fools Theater Company
Through December 8
One of the best experiences for a theatre critic is encountering a talented artist for the first time and being able to say to one’s readers, “Hey, you should check this person out!” Happily, two such artists are part of Sacred Fools Theater Company’s world premiere production of The Value of Moscow. Actress Madeleine Heil steals the show with her irresistible comedic performance, while playwright Amy Dellagiarino displays a wicked wit in this very enjoyable production.
Three sisters have just rented a place which they plan to share. Emily (Devin Sidell), an author, is taking a (supposedly) temporary break from her marriage. First-grade teacher Rose (Madeleine Heil) is thrilled to be together with her siblings again, but is worried about her sister Clara (Julie Bersani). Clara is recovering from a recent suicide attempt and has left her boyfriend Jimbo (Andres Paul Ramacho), who’s purportedly in the Irish Mob. As the sisters unpack their belongings, their secrets begin to come out — along with a gun.
Heil is note perfect as the slightly dim yet sweet Rose, whose chirpy optimism and kindness barely covers a desperate need to connect. Sidell, nailing every bitter line, is excellent as the brittle Emily, and is equally good as her character becomes looser and goofier as the show goes on. Bersani has less success with Clara, perhaps because the character, as written, isn’t as convincing as the other two. Ramacho is very good as the surprisingly intellectual Jimbo, and Gregory Guy Gorden is quite funny as the hapless pizza deliveryman, Cliff.
Director Carrie Keranen gets great, nuanced work from her cast, and ably manages both the quiet moments and the crazier ones. Linda Muggeridge’s costumes are well-chosen, from Rose’s cheerful green sweater/red skirt combo to Emily’s darker purple and black clothing. Dellagiarino, skilled with humorous dialogue, is especially adept at capturing the combative repartee between siblings (“Is that your comeback?” “Is that your face?”). She also gets good mileage from the play’s connection to Chekhov’s Three Sisters: her own work becomes meta-theatrical as her characters often discuss the classic play. The show isn’t perfect – the character of Clara doesn’t seem as credible or individual as the others, and the last half of the play feels more artificial than the first. But overall you come away with the impression that Dellagiarino is a playwright to watch. Her talent is clearly apparent.
This is a terrific production of a seriously fun show, and I recommend it highly.
The Broadwater Second Stage, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Dec. 8. www.sacredfools.org. Running time: approximately one hour and 10 minutes, with no intermission.
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