The Care and Custody of Barbara Moon,” the opening production of Hollywood’s Theatre Geo, is a choppy play about women prisoners and their children. Poignant portrayals by supporting actors, spirited staging and novel direction keeps the lengthy opus interesting.
The seldom-explored subject of prison life for women with children unfolds with a series of confusing scenes and shocking events, told in a surreal, dreamlike fashion. It takes a half-hour before the story line becomes clear.
The prison’s cook, Barbara Moon (Priscilla Barnes), is in jail for armed robbery and murder. Her two adolescent sons, a handsome athlete and an epileptic , visit their mother each weekend at a minimum security prison in Nevada.
An additional storyline about the cook’s assistant who, during sexual favors with a guard, fatally stabs him with a potato peeler, begins strongly and provocatively, and then evaporates without exploration or resolution.
According to the program, “Barbara Moon” marks playwright Olivette Reardon’s entry into theater. It is a flawed, ambitious first effort.
Although the first act presents wooden characters with very little meat for the actors to chew on, the second act is focused and clear, with each scene escalating the tension.
Eric Close gives a sensitive, endearing portrayal as the slow, epileptic brother confused by life. Ric Coy plays the older brother, as well as his father , with confidence and likability. Pretty actress Barnes gets gritty and tough, highlighting her acting abilities in an unglamorous role.
Director Geo Hartley keeps the action moving, with sensitive staging of romantic as well as violent scenes.
The new Theatre Geo is a beautiful addition to the Hollywood legit scene, with comfortable seats, good air-conditioning and a well-lighted parking lot.