City Theatre provided lots of laughs with its Pittsburgh premiere of Elemeno Pea by Molly Smith Metzler. This comedy of minimal manners bursts at the seams with the personalities of just five characters and a the fiasco that is their weekend in Martha’s Vineyard.
The story begins as Devon (Ariel Wodiwiss) is visiting her younger sister Simone (Robin Abramson) at the estate, Island Haven, where she works for the wealthy owners of the property. Her hope for finding an escape from the rut she has found herself in is quickly extinguished upon the arrival of Michaela (Kimberly Parker Green), Simone’s boss. The entire household is thrust into crisis; Simone must give up her time with her sister to tend to her volatile employer, all the while Devon and Michaela are having a passive war of wills.
Each character in this show is wonderfully written and this talented cast played each one of them as well as anyone could. Ethan (Anthony Comis) is a friend of Michaela’s husband with the vocabulary of a twitter addicted Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge. He lives off his portfolio, wears salmon pants and happens to also be dating Simone. Comis does a wonderful job portraying him as a the childish man that has never known worry in his life, while he and Abramson ooze with teenage puppy love for one another. What I can not believe is that his age is supposed to be 42 where I would estimate he were, at minimum, a decade younger based on both his looks and demeanor.
Woodiwiss and Abramson work well as on stage sisters, no matter how much they contrast one another. Woodiwiss hilariously portrays a woman that is 35 going on 25, drinking 30 year old whisky she cannot pronounce and getting down to Jennifer Lopez. Green plays the perfect nemesis to such a character. She fiercely commands the stage with tact or tantrum, either way she is boss. The only one that might be more vicious than her is Tony Chiroldes as “Jos-B”, the grounds keeper on the edge of homicidal rage. The way Chiroldes carried himself and cursed everyone on stage had the audience perking up every time he showed up. He did not play the hired help that is only kept around to be abused and say “yes señorita”; he is an intelligent, articulate man that is tired of taking crap from his employers.
As soon you enter the theater you immediately settle into the lavish comfort and soothing blues and whites of the stage. The room looks as though it has been taken directly out of a Southern Living Magazine. Off the the left is a wet bar stocked with fine whiskey and expensive champagne, Mallards and jars of sand and shells decorate the room while a telescope stands next to the light stone fireplace is tucked in the corner. Sliding doors and full length windows line the back of the stage leading to a porch the length of the house gave depth to the scenes, allowing for some fun background acting.
What I liked about the show was the way it rests right in the sweet spot of comedic delivery. It is neither too much a backhanded satire nor is it outrageously exaggerated to the point of farce; both elements are present washed down with a few strong swigs of real human moments. By toeing this line and from left, right and center Molly Smith Metzler is able to tell a good layered story while making us laugh the entire time.
I would like to thank City Theatre for the complimentary press tickets to the show. You can see Elemeno Pea through March 22nd and tickets can be found here.
Correction: The original published article stated that this was the world premiere of this production, when it was simply the Pittsburgh premiere. We apologize for any confusion.
Playwright: Molly Smith Metzler, Director/Artistic Director: Tracy Brigden, Scenic Designer: Tony Ferrieri, Costume Designer: Robert C.T. Steele, Lighting: Andrew Ostrowski , Sound: Ryan McMasters