DaddyO Dies Well

"DaddyO Dies Well" is bursting with Murray Mednick's patented cascades of imagery and amusing juxtapositions.

With: Peggy A. Blow, Strawn Bovee, Hugh Dane, Elizabeth Greer, Jack Kehler, Melissa Paladino, Casey Sullivan.

As Murray Mednick experiments with language and investigates the majority’s relationship to indigenous cultures, he is emblematic of a Los Angeles dramatic tradition in much the same way that Clifford Odets is identifiable with Gotham or David Mamet with Chicago. The world premiere of “DaddyO Dies Well,” at the Electric Lodge, is full to bursting with Mednick’s patented cascades of imagery and amusing juxtapositions, though a central performance serves to keep the event relatively earthbound.

Thanks to hurried exposition, unfamiliarity with the first four of eight “Gary Plays” is no impediment to appreciating this fifth installment, which finds thirtyish Angeleno actor Gary (Casey Sullivan) depressed — and no wonder, after a couple of breakups, his young son’s random shooting death and a restraining order barring contact with two young daughters.

Still, because this is a Mednick play, we aren’t surprised when Gary’s real problem proves to be serenity deficiency, characterized by a dearth of the transcendent oneness with nature ascribed to Native Americans, rainforest denizens and others practiced in the ways of shamanism. Leaping to the rescue, empathetic but ailing stepfather James (Hugh Dane) prescribes an intervention with the powerful hallucinogen ayahuasca, designed to get Gary straight so “DaddyO” can depart this mortal coil in peace.

Popular on Variety

Sullivan, a winning performer even at Gary’s lowest ebb, believably charts a progression from panicky dry heaves to wonder as the Quechua brew brings this modern Everyman face to face with “reality.” A chorus of helpmeets and hangers-on, from halfway around the world and from other dimensions altogether, contributes to the journey with chanting and the odd quip. (“I’m a doctor and I hate you,” confesses genial medico Jack Kehler, clarifying: “Not you personally, just your human kind … As I always say, money is more important than people.”)

But the verbal heavy lifting is assigned to a charisma-light Dane, who struggles to endow DaddyO’s pontifications with purpose. For a self-described “old hipster who knows what’s what,” Dane slips too often into unvaried, wide-eyed incredulity, while his shaky command of the words suggests they’re the products less of DaddyO’s mind than of Mednick’s word processor.

Doing better by the verbiage is Strawn Bovee as late wife Mama Bean back from the underworld, effortlessly radiating the grace with which everyone credits her. “I’m happy no matter what,” she confides, and we buy it, bewitched by Dan Reed’s shimmering lighting effects and John Zalewski’s haunting South American sound mix.

“Nothing can take happiness away from me,” she avers, “not human weakness, human error, catastrophic climate change, human pride, human arrogance, nothing, because happiness is right here in my heart forever.”

DaddyO is skeptical: “Well, you’re in heaven, Frances, so what the hell?” But while his advice keeps falling on our deaf ears, her bliss recipe seems readily actionable by residents of Amazon and asphalt jungles alike, whether under the influence or not.

DaddyO Dies Well

Electric Lodge, Venice, Calif.; 82 seats; $25 top

Production: A Padua Playwrights presentation of a play in one act written and directed by Murray Mednick.

Creative: Sets, Matt Aston; costumes, Gwendolyn Stukely; lighting, Dan Reed; sound and music design, John Zalewski; projections, Marc I. Rosenthal; stage manager, Laura Manchester. Opened, reviewed April 2, 2011. Runs through May 22. Running time: 1 HOUR, 10 MIN.

Cast: With: Peggy A. Blow, Strawn Bovee, Hugh Dane, Elizabeth Greer, Jack Kehler, Melissa Paladino, Casey Sullivan.

More Legit

  • Protesters demonstrate at the Broadway opening

    'West Side Story' Broadway Opening Night Sparks Protests

    Roughly 100 protestors gathered outside the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” on Thursday night, carrying placards and chanting in unison to demand the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go,” they cried while holding signs that read “Keep predators off the stage,” “Sexual predators shouldn’t get [...]

  • West Side Story review

    'West Side Story': Theater Review

    Whittled down to one hour and forty-five minutes, “West Side Story” – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins — has grown exceedingly dark and mislaid some of its moving parts in the new Broadway revival from edgy Belgian director Ivo Van Hove. (Can [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Closing in March After Box Office Struggles

    “The Inheritance,” a sprawling and ambitious epic that grappled with the legacy of the AIDS epidemic, will close on March 15. The two-part play has struggled mightily at the box office despite receiving strong reviews. Last week, it grossed $345,984, or 52% of its capacity, a dispiriting number for a show that was reported to [...]

  • MCC theater presents 'Alice By Heart'

    Steven Sater on Adapting 'Alice by Heart' From a Musical to a Book

    When producers approached lyricist Steven Sater (“Spring Awakening”) to adapt Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” into a musical, his initial reaction was to recoil. His initial thought was that the book didn’t have a beginning, middle and an ending. But Sater pulled it off with his production of “Alice By Heart.” After an off-Broadway [...]

  • The Lehman Trilogy review

    Sam Mendes' 'Lehman Trilogy' Kicks off Ahmanson's New Season

    Sam Mendes’ “The Lehman Trilogy,” which took London’s West End by storm will be part of the Ahmanson’s lineup for the 2020-21 season. It will be joined by Broadway hits “Hadestown” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Artistic director Michael Ritchie announced the season that will also feature four fan favorites and another production to be [...]

  • Zoe Caldwell Dead

    Zoe Caldwell, Four-Time Tony Winner, Dies at 86

    Zoe Caldwell, an Australian actress with a talent for illuminating the human side of imposing icons such as Cleopatra and Maria Callas in a career that netted her four Tony Awards, died on Sunday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, according to her son Charlie Whitehead. She was 86. Caldwell occasionally appeared in television and [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band interview

    Listen: How 'Cambodian Rock Band' Became One of the Most Produced Plays in the U.S.

    One of the hottest trends in American theater this season is Cambodian surf rock from the 1970s — and that’s thanks to “Cambodian Rock Band.” Listen to this week’s Stagecraft podcast below: Playwright Lauren Yee’s genre-bending stage show, part family drama and part rock concert, has become one of the most-produced plays in the U.S. this season. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content