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Theatre Review (LA): Between Us Chickens by Sofia Alvarez at Atwater Village Theatre

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Playwright Sofia Alvarez is about to graduate from Julliard. Already her plays are being read and, in the case of Between Us Chickens, produced. The play started as a staged reading at South Coast Repertory in the 2010 Pacific Playwrights Festival. The director on that occasion was Casey Stangl, who guided the play further through a workshop of seven performances for SCR’s Studio Series and now a production at Atwater Village. The actors have remained the same through this process. It must be awkward for the playwright not to get to be with the play here in California since this is basically a further workshop for it.

The play involves two East Coast small-time girls who move to LA. One transforms into a party girl (with a Valley Girl accent no less), and the other becomes a recluse homebody tied to her computer. The party girl, played by Amelia Alvarez, meets Charles, a smooth-talking drifter-type, who manages to become a third, non-paying roommate. Of course he seduces each girl, promising the homebody that he will introduce her to the mysteries of LA. Well, the girls both end up with dibs on Charles, and the apartment becomes a war-zone where friendships are shattered and secrets revealed.

The main problem is that the plot is more an idea for a play than an actual play. The characters are stereotypes and their relationships hollow. I didn’t believe anything about this play. Whether this is the fault of the playwright, director, or actors, I couldn’t tell. All I know I didn’t buy the girls’ initial friendship nor Charles’s subsequent interest in the homebody (Annabelle Borke.) The twist at the end seems so farfetched that for me the play went nowhere.

I think we were supposed to learn lessons here about young persons in LA, the nature of friendship, the battle of the sexes, and Internet hanky-panky. There are some interesting ideas here and even a plausible story, but the dialogue will have to be made much more real. Given the material I think the actors did the best they could but I feel they and the director should have worked more on the given circumstance, which is is actor-speak for what these relationships are about. Between Us Chickens plays in the cabaret space at Atwater Village Theatre until June 19.

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