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Pot Mom

Pot Mom review from the Backstage West

Pot Mom
February 23, 2006
By Wenzel Jones

There's a joint simile to reach for here, but I can't think of it. Something along the lines of, "This show is as tight and pleasurable as a," followed by the possessive of some kind of smoker notorious for rolling firm joints, followed by a synonym for joint so I don't have to keep using the word repeatedly. I guess I've been out of the game awhile. But it felt as if I were in the thick of it once more the moment the lights went up on Patty (Ellen Ratner) and Michelle (Laurie Metcalf)-two old friends in Salinas, gathered for a bit of "wake and bake." Their flawless emulation of that pleasurably muzzy, stream-of-consciousness state that takes the edges off life's bleaker aspects establishes the perfect tone for the rest of writer-director Justin Tanner's comedy, a most enjoyable glimpse at the wreck of other people's lives.

Tanner's script is unfailingly funny, even if the structure is along the lines of "this happens, then this, then it stops." It's the whip-quick pacing and seamless performance of the ensemble that sell the production, though. In spite of the significant amount of yelling and door-slamming--a great deal, considering the amount of pot being smoked onstage--there's an utter believability to the characters, broad and sometimes deplorable though they may be. Comic gems though Ratner and Metcalf are, they shine no brighter than the rest of this considerable cast. Victoria Prescott, Tate Hanyok, and Todd Lowe play Patty's grown but not overly disciplined children, and their sibling dynamic is marvelous. The local garage-band boys are a wonderful little slice of suburban anarchy as embodied by Cody Chappel and Guilford Adams. Jonathan Palmer is remarkably sympathetic as Patty's drug-dealing live-in boyfriend. And in smaller roles Audrey Siegel and Sally Strecker acquit themselves nicely as the insufferable daughter and mother, respectively, from the "right" side of the tracks, who get invited to a dinner that goes inevitably awry. The costumes, perhaps provided by the actors, because nobody claims credit, are spot-on in every detail, while James Henriksen's living-room set would be perfect if the reading material on it weren't so geographically and temporally incorrect.

Presented by and at Third Stage Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Feb. 17-Apr. 1. (818) 842-4755.

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