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Theater review: 'Supernova' at the The Elephant Space

June 4, 2010 |  2:00 pm
400.4630623886_bb81c1b3a9 In "Supernova," playwright Timothy McNeil runs kitchen-sink realism through a post-millennial viewfinder. The results are remarkable, albeit still gestating, and remind us anew why the author of "Anything" is an invaluable theatrical asset.
Speaking of assets, McNeil has written wife, Bonnie McNeil, a corker of a role, which she inhabits with transcendent grace. As unappreciated Iowa homemaker Mabel Davies, McNeil is achingly real and elusively lyrical at once, recalling such Golden Age icons as Geraldine Page and Kim Stanley.
Mabel's surface dilemma is the Supernova, a high-end watch to give son Kip (Edward Tournier) on his 18th birthday. John (Tony Gatto), Mabel's sullen blue-collar husband, rejects the idea outright. Besides, disaffected Kip only cares about pot, booze, reactionary conspiracies -- and illicit canoodling with next-door neighbor Fran (an adept Gina Garrison).
Nevertheless, one night Mabel calls the watch company, and connects with Joe Strong (author McNeil, sweetly underplaying), a downtrodden graveyard shifter as isolated as she is. Their developing relationship features McNeil's best writing yet, bringing the title metaphor into touching bas-relief.
Lindsay Allbaugh stages this parabolic study with simplicity and point around designer Joel Daavid's bisected set. She benefits from a crack design team and an invested cast that includes Kelly Elizabeth and Joe Wiebe as Kip's miscreant cronies, and alternates Micah Cohen and James Pippi as Joe's supervisor.
Playwright McNeil hasn't fully integrated Kip's pathology and the underlying socioeconomic factors into the narrative-- a rethink seems advisable.  Still, there's no missing the cosmic jolt that "Supernova" and its memorable heroine so vividly supply.   

–David C, Nichols
"Supernova," The Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 27. $20. (323) 960-4410.  Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photo: Bonnie McNeil and Timothy McNeil. Photo Credit: Joel Daavid.