Arts & Theater

‘Treatment’ goes for broke at B Street and delivers all it tries to do and more

B Street performers write their own play, "Treatment"

Three B Street Theatre actors -- Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly and Stephanie Altholz -- perform "Treatment," which they wrote.
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Three B Street Theatre actors -- Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly and Stephanie Altholz -- perform "Treatment," which they wrote.

Close, lasting friendships, which are not so simply close, lasting relationships, require tending. They need understanding, forgiveness and acknowledgment of faults – others’ and maybe more importantly our own. In the very funny new comedy “Treatment” at B Street, three young women, longtime best friends, go on a camping trip and, as the old saying goes, they laugh, they cry, they dumpster-dive.

Cleverly written and performed by Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly and Stephanie Altholz – all veteran B Street company members – the hilariously irreverent production reliably hits some familiar beats its straight-forward narrative form. During the course of a night’s camping trip, the women will bicker, all will disclose revelations and the bonds of friendship will be stretched. In the end though, their affection for each other and ours for them will be greater than when we started out. And we genuinely laugh a lot.

Pulling it off at such a highly entertaining level may sound simple but is not easily achieved.

As writers, the three have fashioned strong distinctive characters based on personas they’ve shown in their B Street careers. Kelly has continually demonstrated a gift for disarming physical humor that astonishes in its outrageousness. Her lively Patricia does not disappoint here. Altholz as Roxann is an uptight über critic, serially dour and acidic, whose grating voice can (and does) scare wild animals. Sissom as Jayne is the most grounded and often the arbiter between her continually squabbling pals. All have backgrounds in sketch comedy, and as performers their timing and support of one another is exquisite.

The occasion of the three characters getting together has major import. They are going to disperse the cremated ashes of Jayne’s late mother on the one-year anniversary of her passing. The women are drolly disparate in dress, comportment and even camping styles. Yet the familiarity with which they needle and poke each other and then rebound from slights perceived and real underscores the depths of the relationships that fuel the play.

After arriving at the Northern California campground we gradually become aware that each of the campers has an issue. Jayne clearly does not want to execute the mission they have come for. Patricia seems to be hiding something, and Roxann also has her evasive moments. The slim plot, though, is not particularly the point here. How friendships survive and ultimately nourish us through the vicissitudes of life gives this play its soul.

Director Dave Pierini, who oversaw development of the piece, deserves credit for the production’s persuasive rhythm and subtle momentum. The two acts could easily absorb trims to focus some comic meandering in the first half and unnecessary melodrama in the second, but the writing is solid throughout, and the performances are inspired.

B Street has continually taken a courageous go-for-broke approach to new play development, which has naturally yielded uneven results, but it pays off handsomely here with a first-rate, highly recommended production.

Marcus Crowder: 916-321-1120, @marcuscrowder

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Treatment

What: B Street Theatre presents a world premiere comedy written and performed by Tara Sissom, Amy Kelly and Stephanie Altholz. Dave Pierini directs.

When: Through Sunday, June 4, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays; 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. Sundays

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

Cost: $26-$38

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

Running time: Two hours, including one intermission

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