Saturday, February 14, 2009

Review: An absorbing serio-comic drama at LSUS Black Box Theater: Family Planning

We laughed heartily and frequently at Family Planning, a fresh drama from Californian Julia Edwards that is running at the LSUS Black Box Theater.

There were several reasons for the general amusement. One is that domestic strife can be funny when you’re not personally strifing. Another is the stage presence of young actress Kelly Mills, who plays a hottie - with brains. Mills’ comic timing and almost-over-the-top persona are well deployed, as are her boobs.

Bouncing off Miss Mills is jiving James Palmer, the earthy, quasi-Lothario who is buddy of the ‘tagonist. Holding the center in this tale of elusive fertility in the midst of complicated upper middle class lives are Jamie Norwood and Jennifer Warren.

Norwood is rich of voice and clever of eye, though his body English was constrained on Friday night. The appealing Jennifer Warren uses a laser gaze, sleek tongue and fluent body language to capture the audience.

Director Robert Alford is building a troupe of actors who can spar with fluidity. We saw Mills, Warren and Palmer in Alford’s recent production of Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House. They were snappy. The trio seems equally successful in the absorbing production of Family Planning.

In the style of the godly Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Family Planning explores the vacuoles that develop as we become big loaves of bread.

The language in this play is raw, but so are the issues that surround marriage.

Julia Edwards, the playwright, is in town for the week and will do a talk on Sat, Feb 19, at 11 am, says Alford. "Ms. Edwards will offer her thoughts on playwriting in general and discuss the essential components of professional playwriting."

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