"Next in Line" Review

Andrew Parks, Elizabeth DuVall; Photo - Dennis J. Kent

The set is simple, the story straightforward, and the acting fair.  S. L. Stebel and Charles Rome Smith's adaptation of a Ray Bradbury story falls a bit short of the tail of "love, longing and lurking death" that was promised.

The play, set in the fifties, centers around a married couple: Marie (Elizabeth Duvall) and Joseph (Andrew Parks).  They travel to a remote Mexican village on the eve of the Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead.  Their relationship is fragile at best, and Joseph is quickly vilified as the overbearing, selfish, and manipulative party, whereas Marie is the ever-doting wife, trying to please her husband, yet explore her creativity at the same time.  Billed heavily as a "Ray Bradbury" story, one expects some element of the supernatural or science fiction to enter the tale, especially with the spooky smell of death in the air.  But it never appears.  The story is merely an exploration of the intricacies of Joseph and Mary's relationship, which is pretty much spelled out in the first few scenes.  But we sit through fight after fight, longing for the real problem to enter into the plot, until Joseph is faced with his fears, and a luke-warm punishment for his mistreatment of Marie ends the story. 

Ray Bradbury

Perhaps it was first night jitters causing a few misspoken lines, or the apparent lack of motivation for Marie's temperament change in the second act, but this play falls a little short of the expectations one formulates from something billed as an adapted Ray Bradbury story. 

However, the acting was intense, and the audience did laugh at plenty of campy jokes delivered well.  They were also intently concerned with Marie's welfare, and every horrible thing Joseph did to her was felt by all.  An especially memorable performance was given by "the Caretaker" (Roger Cruz).  His character attempted to infuse some element of mysticism concerning the death theme by telling stories of the victims mummified in the catacombs.  He seemed truly authentic as he devoured the rich tourists' chicken leg with the crazed hunger of a poor villager in his eyes.

The story did do a wonderful job of transporting the audience to Mexico.  Dialogue rich with imagery of sights, sounds, and smells populated the script.  And the Mexican feast afterward brought that imagery to life.

"Next in Line", while not a tale of "unworldly horror", is a tale of change, and accepting your fears in life, and death.  Don't expect too much from the story, and it won't disappoint.  But don't look too closely at some character's motivations, because like the dead bodies buried in the Mexican mud, they rot quickly.     

Now playing at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. Hollywood, CA through Saturday July 24. Dark July 4. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2. Tickets: (323) 851-7977 Pricing: $20. Discounts for seniors, students.

Written by S. L. Stebel and Charles Rome Smith. Adapted from a story by Ray Bradbury. Directed by Charles Rome Smith. A Theatre West production in association with Ray Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company. Producing for
Theatre West: T.W. Executive Director John Gallogly. Producing for Pandemonium: Ray Bradbury and Mindy Brandt


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