Charlie (Robert Weiner) is a very simply man. He wakes every morning with his favorite poison, vodka. He situates himself beside his radio, waits for the exact calculated moment, and then, attempts to make contact with the space shuttle somewhere over head. Most days no contact is made.
However, on this fine summer day, his teenaged daughter, Abigail (Caity Engler), who prefers to be called Abbey, has shown up unexpectedly. Having fled on the heels of another fight with her mother, Abbey runs straight into the arms of her father, an action she knows will aggravate her mother. But it seems that Abbey has forgotten how strained her relationship with her father actually is.
Charlie talks in circles and has little concern about where his ravenous daughter’s needs. In the end, despite her repeated objections she ends up settling into, not one of the rooms in her father’s rundown home, but the abandon car in which they were involved in a car crash together, several years prior. Despite Abbey’s resisting, her father takes her to Jimmy’s, that hick bar where Charlie will play his beloved guitar Eurydice, lull the owner into a few free drinks, the local hussy Sally (Jennifer Kenyon) into a free feel, and get more drunk with fellow lush, Doyle (Len Smith), ultimately forgetting all about the anxious daughter that has come to visit him. Willfully, Abbey finds her own entertainment in a local boy named Johnny (Michael Barrett).
Fast forward several years, and the cycle repeats itself. Abbey comes to visit her father at the behest of Sally, who claims Charlie’s health is failing. Although she has newly forsaken college, Abbey has a new college boyfriend Ryan (James Weeks), who seems open, patient and does his best to find the charm in all this dysfunction. Right on cue, Charlie herds them all to Jimmy’s, where he promptly forgets about his daughter’s disdain, as well as her presence. In fact, this latest episode of neglect seems likely to drive Abbey over the edge.
But will anyone care enough to stop her?
OK. First let me congratulate writer/director/producer Rachel Orlikoff, for realizing her vision. Sometimes it takes sheer will to manifest one’s art. Believe me, I know.
Having said that, this production could use a lot of work. The story is fairly common, articulated by fairly two-dimensional characters. Even a crass drunk like Doyle can have depth, it’s all in the way he’s written. If the writing is not strong, it is up to the director to craft a credible performance, and of course up to the producer to find and hire the best performer possible. Orlikoff is wearing too many hats and it shows on the flatness of the production.
The message of the piece is lost in the playwright’s efforts to weave poetry into these characters. Of course we are sympathetic to Abigail, but there is nothing in the plot or the character that makes us want to root for her, or any of the characters. As the show’s leading man, Robert Weiner is at best an actor struggling to remember lines, and at worst, completely unprepared to be the lead in this production. Caity Engler makes heroic efforts to be the glue for the many faltering elements of this show, to no avail. I would be eager to see what Engler could do with more nuanced material and a stronger support cast.
I’m not going to beat up on the production any further. Every artist knows the first work is the hardest, partly because it is often an act of sheer passion and will to realize it; partly because it is usually the weakest work you will do in your artist career. I honestly am waiting and excited to see the next one.
Vodka & Eurydice is running now through June 24, 2012 @
The Magic Mirror Theater
4934 Lankershim Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601