Theater review: 'Quake' at Open Fist Theatre Company
If you think it’s impossible to earn an MBA in two hours, D. Tucker Smith’s “Quake” may change your mind. By the end of this contribution to the Open Fist Theatre Company’s First Look Festival, whether you want to or not, you will be qualified to steer a small company through a corporate takeover.
Smith, also the author of “The Great Game” (which may be on its way to Broadway), sets her latest work at Bindiger’s, a family-owned Long Island department store succumbing to the economic downturn of 2005. Ambitiously, she uses the troubles of a handful of employees in the patio furniture division to illuminate the human condition, touching on topics as diverse as 9/11; the 1988 earthquake in Spitak, Armenia; racism; betrayal; the incompatibility of kindness with professional ambition; and breast cancer.
Smith’s dialogue is naturalistic, with some lyrical touches, and her layered characters give the cast plenty to work with. Ray Abruzzo (Little Carmine on “The Sopranos”) is lovely as the kind, avuncular Artie, Bindiger’s COO, who spends his evenings sitting by the ocean (evoked by Dan Reed’s dappled lighting) nursing stiff drinks and private griefs. Marc Aden Gray plays Barry, a cutthroat salesman who has it in for up-and-comer Diego (a sweet, low-key Alex Pierce), with impressive conviction.
Perhaps the evening’s overwhelming tedium is a result of its leisurely directing, by Smith with Anjali Bhimani. Or the script’s prioritization of verisimilitude over drama: You may start to think you're at “Take Your Daughter to Work Day,” sipping your fifth soda while your dad yammers on about patio furniture. (My date suggested “The Banality of Retail” as better title than “Quake.”) The plot attempts to crescendo into visceral histrionics, but the most earthquake-like moments are the blackouts, which resound with the thuds and crashes of the backstage crew.
-- Margaret Gray
“Quake,” Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles. $25. Ends Aug. 27. Show times vary; for complete schedule contact (323) 882-6912 or www.openfist.org. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Photo: Artie (Ray Abruzzo, left) and Barry (Marc Aden Gray) debate business ethics in "Quake" at Open Fist Theatre Company. Credit Maia Rosenfeld.