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Theater review: 'Stranger Things' at the Atwater Village Theater

September 7, 2011 |  9:30 am

Stranger Things photo 2
Strindberg meets Rod Serling in the Ghost Road Company’s “Stranger Things,” a spooky tale of an estranged son’s homecoming, now at the Atwater Village Theater. With a live piano score by David O, this elliptical play, conceived and directed by Ronnie Clark, creates an eerie atmosphere but occasionally falls victim to its sense of self-importance.

On Maureen Weiss’ dreamlike set of whitewashed pallets, a solemn Helga (Christel Joy Johnson) and her mother (Katharine Noon) take in male travelers at their remote home, hoping to raise money to move to warmer climes.

The place is tidy enough, but the service has its downsides. Let’s just say that guests check out any time they want, but they never leave. When Helga’s graphic novelist brother (Doug Sutherland) turns up 20 years after his disappearance — with eager husband (Brian Weir) in tow — the stage is set for a dark reunion indeed.

Johnson endows Helga with a curious charm, and the show’s somber, claustrophobic tone is leavened by dry wit (Mother: “This is what God is doing to us.” Helga: “God doesn’t care about us. We’re not his type.”). And just when the story seems predictable, it twists into something genuinely chilling. “Stranger Things” becomes a portrait of the artist as a kind of serial killer, a murderer of his past. Are such lethal crimes self-defense or coldblooded? Clark and company leave that for us to decide.

— Charlotte Stoudt

“Stranger Things,” Atwater Village Theater, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 25. $25. (310) 281-8341 or Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

Photo: Doug Sutherland and Katharine Noon in 'Stranger Things.' Credit: Jose Diaz.