By Steven Kopp, OnStage Critic & Columnist New Light Theater Project’s world premiere of No One Loves Us Here at Urban Stages, directed by award winning director Jerry Heymann, plays until February 7th. Written by Ross Howard (resident playwright of NLTP, Edward Albee Playwright Fellowship), No One Loves Us Here is a black comedy set in the neutral toned cartoon world of Central Valley, California. Here, obsession disguised as love takes the form of 19-year-old Washington, a Native American employee at the local video rental store of yester year, who arrives to pick up the belated DVD’s of Mr. Beaumont only to be pulled into the gravity of the ailing marriage of Mr. & Mrs. Beaumont. After inviting Washington to stay in their guesthouse, the couple uses him as a weapon against each other to escape their misery. Unbeknownst, Washington reveals his own hand, having manipulated husband, wife, father, and even neighbor that leads to a Dexter-like bloodbath. Like a bored 19-year-old burning ants alive on a summer’s day, No One Loves Us Here takes a magnifying glass to an already disintegrating notion of white class and laughs as gleefully as Bart Simpson.
I have to applaud Brian Dudkiewicz for his set; which feels like a German Expressionist painting meets west coast housing development minus the desert hues and Kokopelli wall art. I’ve seen many ‘living room’ plays but never one with such a unique eye catching perspective. The use of an off center, slight vanishing point plus the angle of the apron on the proscenium kept me asking, “Why haven’t I seen this before?!” Also congratulations to Ross Howard for playing me like a violin the entire length of the play. I won’t give away too much as not to ruin the twist but I will say the conversation you’ll be having during intermission is in no way the same conversation you’ll be having once everything is said and done. I will ask Mr. Howard though when the last time he was in California as Samuel French claims this play to take place in present day but what present day still has a video rental store?
Jessica Kitchens handles the character of Mrs. Beaumont in full alcoholic Stepford Wives fashion while Christian Ryan, Mr. Beaumont, leans more into the cartoonish aspect of the text and character. His physicality and demeanor infer something of Bill Hader meets a macabre version of Marvin the Martian. But it is Anthony Michael Irizarry who brings it home. Although occasionally dropping line endings like each half smoked stage cigarette, Anthony fools you into believing his outsider sincerity until it is too late. A combination of James Holmes meets Wilmer Valderrama, his is a take on discarded youth that is worth the voyeuristic exploration.
As a columnist who seeks constructive criticism, I applaud New Light Theater Project’s brave world premiere of No One Loves Us Here. The production runs the weekend of January 22nd - 24th, 29th - 31st, and February 5th - 7th at Urban Stages with every performance at 8 pm.
New Light Theater Project: http://www.newlighttheaterproject.com/
Urban Stages: http://urbanstages.org/