Written and directed by Bree Pavey, MUD digs into one of society’s biggest fears – the collapse of society as we know it, the possible consequence of catastrophes which loom just beyond tomorrow and could surface at any time. Perhaps a nuclear holocaust. A never-ending war. A devastating pandemic. Multiple governments overthrown with chaos ensuing. All leading to the unanticipated loss of the bonds that hold society together. MUD offers playwright Pavey the opportunity to conjecture about the “after” following such an Armageddon.
MUD is just such a society formed after the unthinkable has decimated the world as we know it. Hate and barbarism circumnavigate the globe – but an organized piece of sanity seems to linger in the small community of MUD. Led by the formidable Gardner (Lemon Baardsen/Madylin Sweeten Durrie), the ragtag doomsday group has come together for one goal: survival. Luckily, their pattern of life seems to be yielding that very benefit. Then why is the Feeder (Benjamin Rawls/Kristian Maxwell-McGeever) refusing to do his job of preparing sustenance for the group? Why are outsiders like the Innocent (Emilie Crotty/Silas Jean-Rox) disappearing? Why is the Adjudicator (Antwan Alexander II/Biniyam Abreha) feeling that justice may be hanging in the balance?
MUD is double cast – and has a large cast indeed. In addition to the above pairs, the cast includes Barbera Ann Howard, Benjamin Marshall, Britt Crisp, Danielle Ozymandias, Ignacio Navarro, Maia Luer, Matt Lorenzo, Mitch Rosander, Robert Jolly, Sarah Nilsen, and Travyz Santos Gatz. Madylin Sweeten Durrie’s scenic design is perfect for the parched leftovers of society, filmy with smoke and dim lighting (by Tor Brown). Jen DeRosa’s costumes are sufficiently ragged to suggest that a good deal of time has gone by since Vogue and Gentlemen’s Quarterly determined the style of the moment. Clearly, MUD is a group effort, with actors even doubling as production crew. Author Bree Pavey also serves as director and sound designer.
MUD is obviously the work of a devoted and enthusiastic group of theater folk who want to be seen and heard on today’s stage. As such, this group deserves praise for their efforts. However, the production also highlights some weaknesses, including being overlong and often opaque and difficult to follow. In fact, it is only in the last fifteen minutes of the show lasting over two hours that some of the key issues and motivations became apparent – surely a long time to wait, often in confusion, during those long two plus hours. Rather than a surprising twist, the conclusion is instead a slow and grinding effort to achieve some degree of clarity. It appeared that editing would have improved the script, remembering the old adage that “less is more.” On the plus side, MUD is certainly timely and thought-provoking. It might be improved by including a talk-back at the end of the play to encourage audience members to voice their opinions.
MUD runs through September 11, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Loft Ensemble Theatre is located at 11031 Camarillo Street, North Hollywood CA 91602. Tickets are Pay-What-You-Want. For information and reservations, call 818-452-3153 or go online.