BWW Review: LETTERS FROM A NUT Spotlights the Humorous Book Series by Ted L. Nancy
Have you noticed how on most packaging, there is a short statement asking you to please write or call with any questions or concerns about the product you have purchased? That fact came to the attention of author Ted L. Nancy (aka Barry Marder) when he was eating a bag of Fritos while watching television in the middle of the night. Figuring it might be fun to write to the company to see if he would get a response began his career writing absurd correspondence as a customer in need of customer service.
Nancy's first book in the Letters from a Nut series was published in 1997 with an introduction by Jerry Seinfeld, who produces the current Spotlight Entertainment Series event at the Geffen Playhouse through July 30. The series books are published all over the world and are suitable for all ages, especially those with an appreciation of challenging the customer service departments of corporations. Nancy brings his madcap collection of correspondence to the Geffen stage for a one-of-a-kind show that is both outlandish and uproarious.
LETTERS FROM A NUT features Ted L. Nancy as a customer in need of service with Beth Kennedy featured at a desk across the stage as The Many different people to whom he sends the most ridiculous written requests. For instance, writes to the city of Huntington Beach requesting a permit for operating his Electronic Nose Blowing Machine, invites Czechoslovakian President Václav Havel to become Treasurer of Ted's Vacuum Club, and asks Nordstrom about buying a mannequin that looks like his deceased neighbor to present to the grieving widow - plus many more! Time after time by changing her wig, costume and attitude, Beth Kennedy morphs into well-meaning representatives who offer earnest replies to his letters. Daniel Mahler is to be commended for coordinating her costumes for quick changes, which Kennedy does on her own while seated at her onstage desk. Her incredibly funny characterizations are the hit of the show, each one more over-the-top than the last.
Popping in from time to time is Sam Kwasman as Pagliacci, a white-faced clown who never utters a word but often brings in stage props, such as fake snow, to accentuate the letters being read or scenes being set, most of which are enhanced by full-screen projections behind the actors. Director Pierre Balloón keeps the action moving along at an appropriate pace, with the actors often occasionally calling each other out when lines are fluffed, adding to the humor in the piece without distracting from it.
Asked to comment on the show, Nancy said, "I like my fork! I eat the following foods with my fork: gumbo, melon chunks, cake, hamburger, imitation crab, yam, teriyaki."
With that, I leave it up to you to guess at just how funny his letters truly are, especially when he writes asking totally inappropriate questions to service reps who often just toss his second or third letter in the trash can. When that happens, we are treated to a show of fireworks with "No Further Reply" flashing across the screen. Then a frog croaks - and the audience laughs each time!
The show runs just 70 minutes which seem to fly by in half that time, thanks to Ted L. Nancy's outlandish ways of confronting hardworking people who are just attempting to conduct their business in a dignifiEd Manner. You will thank your lucky stars he never wrote to you!
LETTERS FROM A NUT BY TED L. NANCY continues through July 30, 2017 at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024, on Tuesday - Friday 8:00pm, Saturday 3:00 and 8:00pm, Sunday 2:00 and 7:00pm. Tickets start at $65 and are available in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at 310.208.5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org. Rush tickets for each day's performance are made available to the general public 30 minutes before showtime at the box office. $35 General / $10 Student
Production photos by Chris Whitaker