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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Crawl, Fade to White

Have a good life. Louise (to her daughter April)
Have a good death. -- April (to her mother Louise)
If you saw Crawl as a TV movie or soap opera, you'd see the same plot with a vastly different conventional narrative. You might never get to see it because a pitch meeting could end in rejecting a story that's been done before but you can see its world premiere on stage at The Theatre of NOTE.

The brilliance of Sheila Callaghan's play and a lesson to every aspiring writer is that she takes a mother-daughter conflict, dissects it, probes every aspect with jewel-like precision, incorporates flashbacks, contrasts it with frightened surreal neighbors -- then presents the results in 90 taut minutes structured with the lyric prose of a poem.

Unlike too many plays absorbed in dialogue and construction, Crawl has a heart and none of the characters are without it. Rebecca Gray is the elegant Louise, a working mom trying to put her kid through college, she does it any way she can. Her neighbors Fran and Dan are shocked that she doesn't pull her bedroom curtains while she's "working." Her day job at a Wal-Mart type store is, in her opinion, even more demeaning. She doesn't want April to know what she does and never fails to impress on her daughter the proper table manners she learned in her affluent and cultured girlhood home. The lamp she's trying to sell at Fran and Dan's garage sale is a family heirloom and daughter April, even though she seethes with bewildered implacable rage against her mother, tears over there to rescue the lamp which seems to symbolize the preservation of family. She has her college boyfriend Nolan in tow. Flashbacks in a closet show Louise with April's father Niko, who runs an animal shelter.

Director Michael Michetti has an affinity for this kind of material and succeeds in honoring the emotional life of the play while illuminating its bizarre originality. Production credits are brilliantly in sync with this vision. Miguel Montalvo's set and costume designs enhance the characters. The way Jacob Browne's props and furniture are pulled on and off stage is a show in itself. Jason Mullen's lighting design licks and shadows the production augmented by Rob Oriol's haunting sound design.

Rebecca Gray has the poise of a dowager and the too-bright smile that lets you know there's someone and something else in waiting. Phinneas Kiyomura plays Nolan with the irrepressible laugh and insecurity of a college freshman who is propelled more than any of the others through this maze of battering relationships and discovers new corners of himself. Heather Witt's April is written on one note of rage which the actress plays successfully. As neighbor Fran, Esther Ives Williams projects an insecure conventional housewife who expresses her inner dancer by doing a mean twist. Patrick McGowan plays her husband Dan, the other half of a muted bourgeois couple who are ultimately freed by their encounter with Louise and April. Darrett Sanders is Niko, the handsome mysterious animal shelter man who isn't present but is never absent from Louise and April's lives.

This densely layered play raises as many questions as it answers but it's a quirky delight. Sheila Callaghan's unique voice recycles such material as Mildred Pierce and makes it powerfully her own.

Playwright: Sheila Callaghan
Director: Michael Michettei
Cast: Rebecca Gray (Louise), Esther Ives Williams (Fran), Patrick McGowan (Dan), Heather Witt (April), Phinneas Kiyomura (Nolan), Darrett Sanders (Niko)
Set and Costume Design: Miguel Montalvo
Lighting Design: Jason Mullen
Sound Design: Rob Oriol
Prop Design: Jacob Browne
Graphic Design & Projections: Kiff Scholl
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: September 23 to November 5, 2005. World Premiere
Where: Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood. Ph: (323) 856-8611
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on September 30.

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