When author Catherine Butterfield was queried about TO THE BONE, her world premiere dark comedy, she laughingly indicated that she was getting even with her high school nemeses, the “hard girls,” who made her life hell all those years ago. But, as she later admitted, the play started out in one way and ended in another: “Now those bullies are in their 40s, and it turned out as I wrote that they became very interesting people that I fell in love with and forgot my grudges.” A fascinating journey through the unexpected vagaries of life, TO THE BONE explores what happened to all those kids you lost track of in high school in a noir comedy about family, baseball, and genetics.
Sisters Kelly Moran (Tisha Terrasini Banker) and Maureen Dugan (Amanda Weier) live on the Irish Riviera south of Boston. They were known as “hard girls” back in high school, but now they are entering their 40s, perhaps a bit disillusioned and regretting missed opportunities. With considerable trepidation, Kelly is getting ready to finally meet Geneva (Alice Kors), her 22-year-old daughter – whom she gave up for adoption when she was just 17 years old. When Geneva finally does arrive with her college roommate Darcy (Kacey Mayeda) in tow, all Kelly can see is the big black camera. Darcy is all set to film the fateful meeting. Things begin to go sideways from the get-go. Geneva may be bright, educated, and rather sophisticated – but she’s also pretty narcissistic and entitled – and clearly in a different social class than her birth mom. To add fuel to a disastrous encounter, Kelly has plans and secrets which her ingenuous daughter doesn’t suspect. When her son Sean (Jack David Sharpe) begins to hint about the real agenda of the get-together, things go rapidly downhill after a shaky start.
TO THE BONE is a fascinating study of how people change – or perhaps stay the same – over the years. It is also a perceptive look at adoption and the ripples that it may create in everyone’s lives. The playwright (who, by the way, denied any biographical traces in the story) directs with compassion coupled with humor. The talented cast does an excellent job of taking what could be a tragic drama and focusing on the humor inherent in the unexpected curves that life throws at us when we least expect them. Kudos to Tisha Terrasini Banker’s for a conflicted, confused, and ambivalent portrayal.
The Open Fist Theatre Company creative team does an effective job of creating a flexible environment which allows for multiple scenes. Congratulations to Jan Munroe for scenic design, Gavan Wyrick for lighting, Marc Antonio Pritchett for sound, Stephanie Crothers for scenic painting, and Mylette Nora for costumes. Clearly, Open Fist’s productions clearly constitute a team effort. TO THE BONE offers an intricate plot and interesting characters dealing with the unexpected. It is clever, absorbing, funny, and entertaining and will appeal to people who enjoy family interactions, as well as those who are concerned about adoption issues, genetic surprises, setting history straight, and dealing with physical illness.
TO THE BONE runs through November 5, 2022, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Tickets are $30 (seniors $20, students $15). For information and reservations, call 323-882-6912 or go online.