BWW Reviews: DERBY DAY Proves Some Families Are Better Bets Than Others
The Los Angeles Premiere of the critically acclaimed DERBY DAY written and directed by Samuel Brett Williams explores love, family and mortality in his dark comedy set in his hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The play centers on the dysfunctional Ballard brothers who are in town for their abusive, alcoholic father's funeral. Later that same day, they find themselves at the Oaklawn Racetrack where they spent much of their childhood. They drink, cuss and fight over family secrets and wager one last bet for the chance at finally becoming a family.
DERBY DAY had its world premiere at the Camisade Theatre Company, which was founded by Jake Silbermann, Malcolm Madera, and Samuel Brett Williams. All three men have now brought the play to Los Angeles, adding in two other very talented local actors to fill out the cast: Jake Silbermann (Johnny), Robert M. Foster (Frank), Malcolm Madera (Ned), and Kimberly Alexander (Becky).
Camisade Theatre Company is devoted to telling visceral, honest stories that portray parts of America rarely seen on stage, and DERBY DAY certainly fills that bill proving that some families are better bets than others. The Ballard Brothers are all drinkers with hidden secrets and fears, all of which work their way into conversation as the men get drunker as the play progresses.
I have not seen a more physically harrowing play in a long time, with the set basically in ruins by the end of the show. Throughout the show, bottles, cans, trash, tables and chairs are riotously thrown around the set which started out as a very lovely upper level private room at the Oaklawn Racetrack, designed by Joel Daavid. The three actors playing the Ballard brothers all get into extremely realistic fights with each other in different combinations throughout the play, and as the drinking and betting continues, the violence escalates until blood is very realistically drawn. Fight Director Edgar Landa is to be commended for making the unbelievable so shockingly believable.
All the brothers have had trouble with the women and children in their lives, as well as having survived a rough childhood at the hands of an abusive father. It is easy to see the origin of their deceptions and anger as they share secrets aimed at enflaming their siblings just to make themselves feel better about themselves. Silberman, Madera and Foster are to be commended for their ability to share these men first as suited and somewhat upstanding citizens and then take us with them as they sink into the depths of depravity in their souls. Each actor was fully engaged in their characters, even as the many items were thrown about the stage. These actors are just as fearless as the characters they portray.
Adding a bit of normalcy to all this madness is the private room's waitress Becky, played by Kimberly Alexander who makes her Los Angeles stage debut in this production. Becky has seen it all before, but never to this extent. As the play progresses, Alexander opens up about being a caring single mother who really does want to take care of the men well, earning much-needed tips. But the shocking destruction she witnesses as the afternoon of drinking and betting wears on changes this Southern lady into a force to be reckoned with in her own right.
DERBY DAY continues through March 22 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at the Elephant Theatre (6322 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90038).
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at www.plays411.com/derbyday or by calling 323.960.7779.
Running time is 80 minutes with no intermission.
Photos by Alex Moy
Kimberly Alexander is Becky