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Theater review: 'So Damned Heavenly Bound,' 'You Make Me Physically Ill'

August 11, 2011 |  6:30 pm

YMMPI_Publicity_001 Roger Mathey unchains his id and releases the kraken in “You Make Me Physically Ill” at the Elephant. 

Any critic worth his or her salt tries to approach a new work sans prejudices or preconceptions.  But the evening’s curtain-raiser, Patty Wonderly's “So Damned Heavenly Bound,” about a trio of bickering sisters on the eve of their father's funeral, makes us anticipate the worst.  Not only badly directed (by Mathey), “Heavenly” features performances of such rank amateurishness they elicit actual gasps from the audience. 

An unnecessary intermission just after Wonderly’s brief playlet provides a prime opportunity for a quick exit, resisted in this case. But further perusal of Mathey's lengthy and abrasive program notes makes us fear we're in for a long evening.

That's not quite so. If anything, the aptly named “Ill,” a bizarre mingling of absurdism and the kind of humor that would gross out the Farrelly brothers, zips along at a breakneck pace.

Mathey, who also directs, somewhat haltingly, plays the patriarch of a singularly perverse and oversexed family that ruts like elks in springtime, regardless of blood ties or marital bonds. When daughter Jennifer (funny, Stepford-perky Emily Tisler) invites her admirer Will (effectively hapless Karl Wade) over to dine with the clan, surreal crassness compounds.

What to make of Mathey's profusion, an uncensored spew that alternately annoys and amuses?   Granted, tender psyches should steer well clear of “Ill.”  For others, it just may prove a guilty pleasure.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

“So Damned Heavenly Bound” and “You Make Me Physically Ill,” Elephant Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.  8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 10.  $15 and $20.  (661) 212-0241 or www.plays411.net. Running time:  2 hours.

Photo: Claire Moles, from left, Joshua Hensley, Steve Garza and Karl Wade in "You Make Me Physically Ill."  Credit: Roger Mathey.

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