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Theater review: 'Locked and Loaded' at the Santa Monica Playhouse

February 24, 2011 |  6:15 pm

Locked It's always distracting when you can hear the cogs of self-conscious cleverness grinding behind a playwright's conceit. In the West Coast premiere of “Locked and Loaded” at the Santa Monica Playhouse, playwright Todd Sussman is so cheeky and free-wheeling that it often seems as if he is skewing his plot into pretzel shapes just to accommodate a convenient one-liner or two. That and Sussman's subsequent segue into confessional angst give the play an unfortunately haphazard quality.
But if you can turn a blind eye to the dramaturgical randomness, you're likely to enjoy a succession of satisfying belly laughs. A veteran actor himself with an intrinsic sense of comic timing, Sussman has crafted four juicy roles upon which director Chris DeCarlo and a talented cast feast freely.
Irwin Schimmel (Paul Linke) is a TV comedy writer whose brash patter camouflages deep sadness. His Odd Couple-esque pal, Dickie Rice (Andrew Parks), is a mega-wealthy patrician whose unshakable urbanity is a hedge against his own bitter disappointment. Both are suffering from terminal brain tumors and have rented a luxury hotel suite (James Cooper's nicely detailed set) for one last blow-out before committing suicide.

Sussman's dark comedy takes a metaphysical twist with the arrival of two highly unusual hookers (Terasa Sciortino and Sandra Thigpen, alternating in the role with Tarina Pouncy), who soon take the evening into unanticipated directions.
Granted, the characters — mouthy Jewish jokester, repressed WASP, gold-hearted hooker and feisty black tranny — are brass-plated stereotypes, but the performers, particularly the rollicking Linke, flesh them out to believable proportions — no mean feat, considering the peregrinations of Sussman's overwrought plot.
— F. Kathleen Foley 

“Locked and Loaded,” Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 16. $21-$26. (310) 394-9779, ext. 1. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Photo: Sandra Thigpen, Paul Linke, Terasa Sciortina and Andrew Parks costar in "Locked and Loaded." Credit: Cydne Moore.


Comments () | Archives (13)

“Locked and Loaded” is a psychodynamically oriented psychotherapist’s dream-play because it explores the relationship between people’s unresolved, untold stories and their physical maladies. In this case, the two protagonists, Irwin Schimmel (played by Paul Linke with an energy fueled by terror and shame) and Dickie Rice (played by Andrew Parks with an emotional restraint begotten by his profound loneliness and isolation) have brain tumors. Their affliction has manifested in a disease of the organ that is the seat of memories both conscious and unconscious. “God” (played saucily the night I saw the play by Tarina Pouncy) occupying the body of a transsexual hooker, informs both men that they have caused their own illnesses. As what was intended to be their last night on earth progresses, the men are brought to “trial,” where they must each reveal the memories that have formed their characters. For Irwin it is his icky relationship with his seductive mother and the death of his infant son for which he blames himself. For Dickie it is the loss of the one and only person in his childhood whom he loved and by whom he felt loved. After their “confessions” and the death of the second hooker who has sacrificed herself for her “love” of Irwin (played by Terasa Scorpion, who has a magnificent flair for accents), the two men appear to have been reborn. And isn’t that what effective psychodynamic psychotherapy can accomplish?

Locked and Loaded was facinating, exciting and brilliant. From the profound pain to complete warmth to total hilarity, this piece of work was a joy to watch. Combining brain cancer, suicide, and hookers (0ne who might just be god) to disarm his audience, Todd Susman transforms the theater to a place where we can all laugh at ourselves, even when life seems too painful.

This show was full of twists and turns and a few interesting surprises near the end. The men were wonderful and brilliant, but I think that the women stole this show. The women were terribly convincing and hilarious with their dialect and accents. I would recommend this play to anyone who can handle some good entertainment.

I loved the show, it had a great twist and modern spin on relationships and life, very different. The performances from the actors were very strong.

What a great show. All of the actors were on the money. Full of life and I have to say the two ladies (Terasa Sciortina and Sandra Thigpen) out did themselves with difficult roles made to look easy. Terasa was fabulous with her accents. Everyone made the play fun and easy to watch. Two Thumbs Up!!!

An interesting premise, clever wordplay, excellent acting and some unexpected twists.
The night I saw it, the 2 hookers were played by Terasa Sciortina and Sandra Thigpen and both were mesmerizing to watch.
Go see it - you'll laugh, you might even cry - and you'll be supporting a cool little theatre.

Just recently saw "Locked and Loaded" and I would like to urge everyone to check it out! A great play that keeps you drawn to the amazing chemistry and collaboration between the four talented actors and actresses. When observing the play I felt numerous emotions: laughter, sadness, shocked and curious. This play hits a variety of feelings for the viewers, thats how good it is, so see it!

Dear Kathleen,

Do you realize how in he first few lines of your review you manage to distract every one of us by forcing us to listen to cogs of your own self-conscious cleverness grind up against your massive ego.

I mean how late did you stay up, to find just the right barbs to use to try to lessen what is actually an incredible work of art.

And more importantly who hurt you as a child?

Any way despite her review I actually saw the play and I found it wonderful. Intelligent and heart breaking, dealing with the comical side of suicide and that bitch called redemption...my praise to Todd Susman the writer and the entire Cast, especially Terasa you were all great.

Locked and Loaded was an amazing play. It was great to see such rich, original material in Los Angeles theatre. It had many twists and turns, I didn't know what was coming. All the performances were wonderful, especially Terasa Sciortino's portayal of a Latin prostitute, among her other characters/accents she had to take on in this role. Two thumbs up!! GO see it!

The performances in this play are super. The cast is wonderfully in tune with each other and took me on a fine, funny ride. Thanks.

i gotta say, i'm not typically a fan of pieces that play with reality and the audience's ability to suspend disbelief so haphazardly, but somehow this piece got under my skin. the emotional climaxes of the two main characters (though i seriously had zero understanding of how we even got there or why they were baring their souls at all at that point) so surprised and effected me with the sincerity and apparent honesty of both the writing and the performances, that i couldn't stop myself from crying both times!

Sciortino's performance by the way was just flawless throughout. such a specific and hard-to-believe character executed with surprising mastery and finesse. i believed her every time she spoke despite the ludicrous "background" of the character. i'm very excited to see what she goes on to do next.

What a great show! I went in having absolutely no idea what to expect and REALLY enjoyed this show. The story is interesting and unpredictable, the acting is solid. It was a very enjoyable evening. Catch this play while you have the chance!

I saw the play last night with two friends, and we all enjoyed it immensely. Each cast member brought something fresh and unique to their perfomances. The characters themselves were detailed and surprisingly nuanced for this type of free-wheeling format. We all laughed out loud over and over. Paul Linke was hilarious. A totally satisfying night at the theater! I recommend it unreservedly. Go see it at the historic Santa Monica Playhouse.


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