by Willard Manus
Theresa Rebeck is a prolific and successful playwright (Bad Dates, Spike Heels) whose work I've generally admired in the past, but her latest, OMNIUM GATHERUM, now in its West Coast premiere at Theatricum Botanicum, left me underwhelmed. Written with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros, the play was mounted in response to 9/11 and deals with a dinner party from hell. The hostess, Suzie (Ellen Geer, who also directed), has invited seven guests who proceed to argue the damaged state of the world from their respective dogmatic viewpoints. As they spar verbally over The Big Issues--Arab terrorism, globalization, Israeli and U.S. militarism, capitalism vs socialism, etc.--the ditzy Suzy (Martha Stewart on uppers) tries to hold things together by stuffing them with food and drink. Suzy's non sequitirs are funny for about fifteen minutes, the arguments engage for about twice that length of time, but because the playwrights don't know when to stop, what might have been a scintillating one-act becomes tiresome and annoying as a full-length (without an intermission, yet). A final plot twist (right out of Outward Bound) was undoubtedly meant to shock and awe, but because it was telegraphed early on, it fell as flat as one of Suzie's crepes.
Others in the hard-working, worthy cast include Alan Blumenfeld, William Dennis Hunt, Melora Marshall, Mike Peebler, Earnestine Phillips, Navid Negahban and Amro Salama.
Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 14l9 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga. (310) 455-3723 or theatricum.com