Both Side-Splitting and Tear-Jerking
(Santa Monica, CA - October 7, 2010) In her 70-minute one-woman show Loveland, writer-comedienne Ann Randolph takes the audience on a flight of imagination and memory. Randolph's first solo piece, Squeeze Box, was originally produced by Mel Brooks and the late Anne Bancroft and went on to become a critically accclaimed Off-Broadway hit. Loveland has just come to the Santa Monica Playhouse, where Randolph is alternating between performing there and her weekend gigs in Berkeley, where she was recently awarded, "Best Solo Performer in San Francisco 2010" by the SF Weekly.
Georja: It is rare and great to be able to experience side-splitting hilarity and poignant tears, all within a short span of time, and all delivered by one very kooky and uninhibited performer. The main character in this piece, Frannie Potts, is a wildly extroverted rare bird who is compelled to say and act out her every whim and feeling. Randolph's hugely expressive face and long-limbed, limber body are her perfect artistic tools.
Gerald: You can tell from the photos on this page how plastic Randolph's looks are, rubbery mugging that brings the audience to hysterics. She really knows how to use her "instrument" not only to pay off punch lines, but also to build laughs bigger. As a career, Randolph also teaches writing and performing workshops. So presumably she's her own master teacher. But we should credit director Matt Roth for helping her discover what works. No doubt she's also been supported by acting coach and script supervisor Joshua Townshend-Zellner.
Georja: The framework for the story is a plane ride. The construction of her overly enthusiastic, often self-righteous character with a screw or two loose, the uptight business man next to her and the trying-to-be-in-control flight attendant alone are the material for an SNL or Groundlings sketch. Then Randolph definitely bumps it up a few notches when she includes the character of the airline pilot and her sexual fantasies about him in the cockpit. We see her crazy act-outs and gyrations on the chair as she lets herself go way past the point of normal decorum.
Gerald: When Frannie complains to her yoga teacher that her lower chakra has taken over, all the act-out would need in order to be banned from the Santa Monica business district would be a g-string.
Georja: When Randolph brings in the character of her mother, we see another version of Frannie, perhaps the only person in the world who loves and understands her. Mom is also full of zingers and one-liners, and the two of them enjoy a witty repartee. Already the relationship adds depth to the creation.
Gerald: I was struck by how much Randolph owns Frannie as a character. It's Randolph's performance but it's Frannie's show. All the delineations between her various characters are sharp and distinct. When she becomes the assisted-living social worker, I thought I was watching a prim, white-bread Laura Linney. Then I'm wondering, who is Ann Randolph, really? If I met her on the street, would I even recognize her?
Georja: Later in the piece we are treated to Randolph's unique creation of solo performance within solo performance, her "facial gesturing to sound." This is not to be missed over-the-top zaniness and by itself is worth the price of admission.
Gerald: Her facial gesturing, which Frannie regards as her major talent, is all the more accomplished because Randolph is credited as doing her own sound design. The music clip selections are right on, and also the sound-effect mixes are complex. So I think we can rightly conclude there's yet another Ann Randolph - the audio geek!
Georja: And then, only a few beats later, the audience is twisted and turned on its ear. We are brought to the brink of sadness and the depth of loss of a loved one. And that's where we are dumped off, as it were.
Gerald: When Frannie appreciates the erosion of the Grand Canyon from the air, it becomes a metaphor for beauty created from loss. It's profound, touching and unexpected in such a comedic piece.
Georja: Rarely do you get to experience so much in one small bare-bones solo theater piece, or even in a large lavish production with a big cast. This is theater at its finest. Randolph deserves all the awards she can get. Get out and see it!
Photos by Leland Auslender
"Loveland" written and performed by Ann Randolph
Tuesdays Sept. 21 - Nov. 16, 2010