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Theatre Review (LA): Moose On The Loose by Dina Morrone at Theatre West

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Remember that iconic scene in the television story Northern Exposure when a moose wanders into town? That is a moose on the loose. Moose On The Loose is also the title of an amusing play by Dina Marrone that she developed in a workshop at Theatre West in Los Angeles. How lucky a playwright is to have access to such a workshop and then get to see her vision put into full production.

Moose On The Loose is a semi-autobiographical work about a family from Cambria, Italy who left their impoverished existence to find a better life. They got as far as Way Out Bay, a remote little town in Ontario, Canada, and put down roots. The play begins as daughter Gina arrives fresh from the competitive world of marketing to take a year off. But she has a hidden agenda. At the same time a moose wanders into town and her father Giuseppe (John Cygan) decides to go shoot the moose; despite the fact that it is protected, Giuseppe is out of work and very frustrated because in his world, a father provides for his family.

Way Up North is a town where the favorite TV channel is about the weather. But nothing is boring here given the fact that these are Italians, and Italians are volatile. Connie Mellors does a remarkable job as Mama Maria, considering she stepped into the role shortly before the show opened. Sister Carmela has an Anglo husband (Corinne Shor and Michael Lorre) and they have a precocious child, Timothy (Grant Venable). Brother Bruno (Johnny Ferretti) wants nothing more than to watch the weather on TV but he has found time to find a Native America girlfriend who is who is due to meet the family tonight.

My favorite characters are the grandparents, the wisecracking Pina (Laura James) and her combative but loving husband Rodolfo (Jack Kutcher). When the moose wanders into town and all hell breaks loose, it seems that the moose isn’t the only one “on the loose.” One of the themes of the play is that people, despite their cultural differences, can get along. Gina arrives and they all sit down to dinner where differences are examined and accommodated.

There is one more character: the Moose/Chief played by the laconic Tom Badal, who shares the role with Eric Kramer. Marrone’s idea of a talking moose in not only amusing but again illustrates how people or creatures from different worlds can get along.

The play is well directed by veteran director and producer Peter Flood, who is used to developing new scripts from his work at Disney. He keeps the characters true to themselves, and the group scenes are the best in the play. The cast could be more cue-tight and Badal could link his thoughts together with more energy, but in this sort of play, where a bunch of very different people interact, the playwright and director as well as the cast learn from the doing. Moose On The Loose is a fun evening at the theatre and will play at Theatre West until July 10.

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