Playwright Christopher Meeks has funneled many of our society’s ills, psychological and otherwise, into the angst-ridden relationship of yuppie couple Martin (Scott Allyn) and Julia (Annie Grindlay). The relentless deterioration of their lives spotlights many of the debilitating realities the contemporary adult must face in the quest to attain the American Dream. Unfortunately, the production suffers from spotty performances and a lack of directorial vision.
Martin and Julia own their Southern California home, and Martin’s salary allows Julia to stay home with their 3-month-old son. Yet as they prepare for an afternoon barbecue on their front porch, both feel the pressures of unending responsibilities, unfulfilled expectations and a genuine fear of the unstable urban society that surrounds them.
When Granja (DeVeau Dunn), a gun-wielding young black man, invades their home , precipitating the accidental death of their son, Martin and Julia’s tenuous hold on normalcy is shattered and they are sucked into a quicksand of recriminations, psychoanalysis, chemical dependency and violence. Ironically, the incident sets Granja on a path of personal redemption.
Meeks paints a telling but bleak landscape of modern existence — but all existence has its lighter moments. Director Jon Lawrence Rivera fails to capitalize on these moments to give some balance to the production. The unceasing barrage of tragedy becomes more deadening than enlightening.
Allyn and Grindlay make an attractive pair, but their relationship is played at one level: intense. Dunn is more successful as Granja, who exudes a wide-eyed innocence even in the midst of his brutal attack. Cathleen Chin, however, seems lost as a psychologist with problems of her own.
The designs of Melanie Paizis (set), Robert Fromer (lights), Robert Murphy (sound) and Ellen Hughes (costume) provide minimal but adequate support.
The Los Angeles Playwrights’ Arena is dedicated to discovering, nurturing and producing original plays and musicals from L.A. playwrights whose work reflects the cultural diversity of the city. Meeks’ “Suburban Anger” is a fiercely direct example of this producing philosophy.