The Fall To Earth


REVIEW by Willard Manus

THE FALL TO EARTH commences in a comic vein: daughter obliged to share not just a hotel room but a bed with her estranged, overbearing mother. Gradually though the comedy begins to give way to drama and then horror and ghastliness.

Joel Drake Johnson is a Chicago-based playwright whose work is now finding favor in Los Angeles: Rogue Machine Co. recently mounted a previous work of his, Four Places, which was directed by Robin Larsen and starred Roxanne Hart, both of whom have teamed up again on the West Coast premiere of THE FALL TO EARTH (with Hart serving as co-producer).

JoBeth Williams plays Fay Schorsch, a mid-west woman who has traveled with her adult daughter Rachel Browney (Deborah Puette) to "a small American city" on a macabre mission. Kenny, Rachel's younger brother, died here and now she must visit the morgue to identify his body. What she learns from a policewoman (Ann Noble) is that Kenny committed suicide. The revelation sparks an explosive confrontation between mother and daughter. Old wounds are reopened, bitter words are exchanged, anger erupts into violence.

What ultimately becomes clear is that Fay, who has prided herself on being a good, doting mother, is really a terrifying, all-devouring monster. Kenny's act of self-slaughter was the only way he could get free of her.

Johnson's tough, mordant play has been well-produced at the Odyssey Theatre. Designer Tom Buderwitz's generic motel-room is a splendid setting for the mayhem that occurs there; Larsen's direction is taut and incisive, and the three-person cast (with a ghostly cameo by Ian Littleworth) works together with precision and power.

Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West L.A. 310-477-2055 or