Eddie ( Jason Brit) is an inventor. Since losing his fiancée Emilia, he has begun compiling a list of impossible things. His goal, eventually take that list and create the inventions that makes it possible. One example: oven mitts that feel heat and cry out in degrees ranging from ouch! to blood-cuddling. More than anything, the list is a distraction from his grief at losing Emilia, and from the invisible Sea Monkey ( Jillian Easton) that keeps following him around. (He invented Sea Monkeys too, but that invention was stolen before he perfected it.)
Eddie – who has also taken on a new identity as Harold – is the almost-brother-in-law of Ellen ( Tiffany Cole) and Casey ( Mason Hallberg). They were the siblings to Emilia. Ellen has taken over Emilia’s coffee shop. Even with a recipe, Ellen can’t duplicate the amazing baked goods her sister was famous for, the baked goods that had once made the coffee shop a success.
Casey has an imaginary friend, Paul ( Geoff James) who will cease to be if Casey can’t find a way to make him real. Paul wants Casey to ask the cute waitress Lydia ( Ashleigh Boiros) out for coffee, even as he develops a crush on her himself. Jaye ( Jessica Lightfoot) is a grad school dropout who bears a striking resemblance to a superstar that Lydia worships. New in town, Jaye just wants a job, and Ellen gives her one.
Alice ( Barbara Scolaro) is the bag lady that hangs around outside the coffee shop, trying in vain to remind herself of the great magician she once was. Gabie ( RJ Farrington) is a chick that only Ellen and Alice can see, reading tabloids, silently watching, waiting. She eventually tells Ellen that she is her guardian angel, which does nothing to help Ellen’s depression.
So, Ellen wants to kill herself. Casey wants to make Paul real. Paul wants to date Lydia. Lydia wants to hide in her small life. Eddie wants to invent stuff – and to make the Sea Monkey go away. Jaye wants to start over. Alice wants to remember her card tricks. And Gabie doesn’t really want any thing; she’s just there to do a job. How does it all shake out? You have to go see the play.
99 Impossible Things is nearly impossible to follow, unless you pay very close attention. There are so many characters, all with their special brand of neurosis; it’s a bit much. There is no clear protagonist. Normally, I wouldn’t automatically see that as a flaw. Except without a focal point amidst the piles of plots, we don’t know who or what the play is about, or why we should even care. It’s quite possible that different audience members will identify with different characters, but there has to be a point of entry for the audience to engage. Finally, the play is too long by about three scenes and the monologues felt out of place in general.
However, writer / director Chelsea Sutton has penned a script rich in imagery. At times the prettiness of the language does point to itself. But, by and large, Sutton has managed to give voice to the poet within each character and directs these lyrical passages into truly touching and authentic moments within the play. Despite the elaborate network of storylines, ultimately, all the dots do connect nicely. The play does fall into a very nice rhythm in the second act.
It may be safe to say that one will rarely encounter a roster of characters so eclectic as the colorful collective featured in 99 Impossible Things. Sutton’s performers vary in strength but all give admirable performances.
The World Premiere of 99 Impossible Things runs now through February 13, 2011 at:
Eclectic Company Theatre
5312 Laurel canyon Blvd.
Valley Village, CA 91607
Friday & Saturday @ 9pm
Sunday @ 7pm