A story of two women in 1985 who decide to kidnap and rape a pizza man in order to get their revenge on the patriarchy may not sound like a particularly gripping comedy. But in Pop Up Theater Inc.'s production of Darlene Craviotto's "Pizza Man," the actors nail the complex storyline and undertones, breathing life into characters that could easily be read as shallow and impetuous.
The pop-up performance space in Hollywood, advertised as "Julie and Alice's loft," is minimalistic and chic, albeit not very 80's, creating a comfortable environment for the audience to explore before the show. The upstairs portion of the apartment doubles as a makeshift bar (serving both drinks and pizza) as well as an extension of the main playing area. Julie (Emma Chandler) and Alice (Raleigh West) sleep upstairs, and the audience is able to interact with their bedroom and immerse themselves in the play before it even begins.
The show begins with Julie in the middle of a meltdown. From the get-go, Chandler (a B.A. Theatre graduate from USC) sets a manic precedent for her character, and rarely diverges from it until the end of the play while still going through an impressive emotional change.
After Julie's initial breakdown, her "neurotic" roommate Alice arrives, although neurotic is only one of many words that could describe West's performance. Reminiscent of a young Joan Cusack, West perfectly delivers almost every one of her comedic lines, resulting in thunderous laughter from the small audience all night long. West's characterization of Alice is layered, but she manages to not take her role too seriously, allowing audience members to do the same in their perceptions of the show.
Finally, Eddie (Freddy Giorlando) arrives, pizza in hand. Giorlando's performance is inconsistent, and while he warms up to the role and delivers some painfully truthful dramatic moments, he is overshadowed by his female co-stars, making his role a bit forgettable.
While the actors did a great job portraying their respective characters, the real highlight of the production was the creativity that went into its staging and performance. Audience members sit mere feet away from the characters in the middle of their own living room, which created an extremely natural aura that would be impossible to experience in a standard theater space. The lighting, set, props and costumes are minimalistic, but because of the space itself, none of these elements pose a problem for the believability of the story. Jamie Lou's direction is creative without being too showy, allowing the audience to focus on the story itself.
"Pizza Man" is playing through February 24th at Julie and Alice's Loft (5426 Flemish Lane, Hollywood). Tickets are $5-$35. For more information visit ThePopUpTheater.org.
You can contact contributing writer Sasha Urban here.