A middle-aged woman half-heartedly tries on clothes in the dressing room of a discount store. Perplexed and uneasy, she does not recognize her business-suit-clad self reflected in the full-length mirror, having spent years in old sweatsuits while tending her dying mother. Who is she, now that her role has changed? Her best friend sits on the floor, spouting encouragement while attempting to create order from a stack of unpaid bills she has brought with her in a voluminous purse.
The world premiere production of Jennie Webb’s surreal comedy “Yard Sale Signs” plays through Nov. 14 at Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Now in its third season, Rogue Machine offers up world premieres by established and emerging playwrights, as well as LA, regional, and American premieres of significant contemporary plays previously produced elsewhere.
Co-founder of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative and Playwright in Residence at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum — where she created and runs “Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights” — Jennie Webb has had work produced on stages across America and internationally. Developed through readings at both Theatricum Botanicum and Rogue Machine Theatre, “Yard Sale Signs” concerns a random group of five women and one gay male, compelled to look beyond their reflections and projections by the forced intimacy of a communal dressing room.
With a decidedly absurdist edge, the play “throws light on the stuff we all accumulate as we move through life, and the unconscious maneuvering we engage in to convince ourselves we’re rid of the baggage,” says Webb. “While discussing this issue with a friend of mine, she said I should write a play set in a women’s dressing room — where the mirrors and bad lighting reveal everything we try not to notice.”
Elina de Santos directs with a light touch, an unselfconscious nonchalance, allowing the play’s increasingly wacky twists to unfold as if nothing unusual is going on. The skilled and nuanced performances from a seamlessly effective ensemble cast are simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. But the special effects walk away with the evening. With the astonished audience gasping, incredulous, one woman slowly reveals her massive love-hate Mommy baggage, while another quite literally falls apart with the stress of coping with her own three children. Tech director David Mauer somehow accomplishes an escalating series of impossibly surreal events.
The six cast members effortlessly interact with the dozens of props and each other. Inger Tudor, Jennifer Taub, Ann Bronston (alternating with Maia Danziger), Corryn Cummins, Hollace Starr, and Jaxon Duff Gwillim offer completely committed and credible performances. Clothing designer Eva Franco’s racks of brightly colored dresses, suits, blouses and skirts — all for sale after the show — decorate the vast unit set by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz.
For tickets, call (323) 960-4424 or visit www.roguemachinetheatre.com.