Jerry Montoya

Playwright Molly Smith Metzler’s “Elemeno Pea” stars, from left, Stephanie Altholz, Lyndsy Kail and Melinda Parrett. It’s at the B Street through Feb. 23.

Theater Review: Good cast gives ‘Elemeno Pea’ a boost

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 - 12:00 am

We all know the rich are different from those of us who are not, and it really is as simple as they have more money. The differences flow from there – the softness, the cynicism, the insecurities and the entitlement.

But we believe they are not better people, so artists through the ages have given the rich their comeuppance. From William Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin and F. Scott Fitzgerald to Woody Allen, we have seen the rich stripped of their money, which of course is their power, and we’ve seen they are often less than we are without that buffering shield.

Have-nots aren’t necessarily better people, either, as Molly Smith Metzler’s bitchy “Elemeno Pea” caustically demonstrates. In director David Pierini’s blunt production of the hectoring comedy now at B Street Theatre, the rich and the rest of us square off. Nobody wins.

The playwright’s characters are broad and obvious, with Metzler putting them through predictable paces before tossing in some late melodramatic twists. The strong B Street cast gives these people more depth than the writing suggests, generating plenty of laughs, particularly if you enjoy vitriol. Metzler sets up a foul-mouthed sitcom premise with Lyndsy Kail’s blithely naive personal assistant, Simone, hosting her scuffling, bitter older sister, Devon, for a weekend at her absent employer’s plush Martha’s Vineyard estate. Devon isn’t having it.

The sisters couldn’t be more different. Stephanie Altholz’s sullen Devon views Simone’s life with equal amounts of envy, disgust and hostility. Actually, Devon is heavier on hostility than anything else. She has her own inadequacy issues as she’s 35 years old, working as a hostess at Olive Garden and living in their mother’s suburban upstate New York basement after a failed relationship.

In colorful contrast to Devon’s gray sweat-shirted presence, we have Simone’s pretty designer-suited chic. Simone comes off as upbeat as her outfit. She revels in the voice-activated sound system Disco (“Disco play J-Lo’s ‘Jenny From the Block!’ ”), the 500 feet of private beach outside the soundproof sliding glass doors, and the Bentley in the garage. Devon revels in telling Simone it’s all gross and belongs to someone else when that someone else comes through the doors.

With Melinda Parrett’s moneyed Michaela, we have one of “those” women for whom no trivial inconvenience is too small, no extravagant gesture too big, and no problem her unlimited checkbook can’t solve. However, Michaela’s unseen husband is cutting her loose, and much like Cate Blanchett’s Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis in Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” without a safety net, Michaela is hitting the ground hard.

There are two troubling male characters from central casting who receive strong performances, blurring the weaknesses written into them. Kurt Johnson’s absurdly coiffed Ethan, who’s dating Simone, represents idle rich in all their buffoonery, while Alex Robertson’s resentful Jos-B shows up as the righteous working class.

In the middle of it, Parrett’s proud Michaela elegantly breaks down and comes together again with more grace than would seem possible. Rich no more, she must now find something money couldn’t have bought her, anyway.

Theater Review: Elemeno Pea

Stars: * * * 

What: B Street Theater presents a new comedy by Molly Smith Metzler about class and privilege in our modern culture. Dave Pierini directs with a cast including Melinda Parrett, Stephanie Altholz, Lyndsy Kail and Kurt Johnson.

When: Continuing 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m Wednesdays and Sundays through Feb. 23.

Where: B Street Theatre Mainstage, 2711 B St., Sacramento

Cost: $23-$35, $5 student rush

Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission

Information: (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org


Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.

Read more articles by Marcus Crowder



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