(This review was written by special guest reviewer Mia Bonadonna.)
Developed at the National Theatre in London, Jemma Kennedy’s comedic family drama, The Grand Irrationality is playing at Lost Studio. Kennedy’s story follows central character Guy Proud as he navigates his way through a plethora of dysfunctional social relationships while reckoning with his own philosophical significance. While the production might benefit at times from a bit more energy and staging efficiency, the work offers audiences exacting performances, sharp aesthetics, and natural direction.
While watching The Grand Irrationality one cannot help but think what a great read the script must be – surely a testament to Kennedy’s background as a novelist. Kennedy emphasizes tactful character development, carefully evolving each role and moving all from sleazy and trashy first act annoyances to engaging individuals full of selfhood and flawed humanity in act two. The plot is a bit predictable, but bolstered by a broad spectrum of credence-lending themes encapsulated by the title’s cosmic including family bonds, love, lust, professional politics, socio-political meaning, consumerism, facets of feminism, and the meaning of life.
The cast is led by Gregory Marcel as Guy, an up-and-coming ad man under conflicting work and family pressures. Marcel seemed unsure of himself during the first moments of opening night, but quickly warmed up to the stage, giving an exacting, intense, and magnetic performance. Supporting cast members Peter Elbling and Mina Badie were also performance standouts. Playing Guy’s father Murray, Elbling blends unexpected crudeness with congenial warmth to give a charming and charismatic performance. In the role of Liz, Guy’s post-partum sister, the impassioned Badie remains both earnest and vivid.
Under the direction of John Pleshette, The Grand Irrationality is not perfect, but full of intuitive blocking and polished timing. The production suffers a bit from lengthy scene changes (probably due to opening night hashing), but this staging aspect dissipates by the second act just in time to draw the audience into the emotional crux of the play. Pleshette also took the set design helm for The Grand Irrationality to craft scenes full of strong, clean lines and bold visuals.
The Grand Irrationality is running through March 3 at Lost Studio, located at 130 S. La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90036 (between First and Second Streets). Advance tickets are $25 and available online or via phone at 323-960-4443.