OUTLANDER's Anne Kenney Premieres LAST CALL at Open Fist
When is it time to give up the keys? Get ready for the laughter-through-tears magic that is Last Call by Anne Kenney. Open Fist Theatre Company presents the world premiere of this funny, sad and very human debut play by the Peabody Award-winning writer best known for her work onSwitched at Birth, Hellcats, Greek, L.A. Law and, most recently, the first three seasons of Outlander. Open Fist company member Lane Allison directs for a Jan. 18 opening at Atwater Village Theatre, where performances will continue through Feb. 23. Pay-what-you-want previews begin Jan. 11.In Kenney's semi-autobiographical dramedy, the Vaughn family's go-to defense mechanism of sarcasm and mordant humor falls short when the aging parents hatch a not-so-funny way to avoid the retirement home. "This piece is very close to my heart," says the playwright. "I watched my parents' health degenerate as they got into their '90s and had to come face-to-face with the quality vs. quantity of life question. The only way that my parents and I and my brother got through it was with an abundance of gallows humor and a lot of compassion." Last Call received a staged reading as part of Open Fist's First Look Festival last year, and it was instantly apparent that the play deserved a full production. "Anne brings extraordinary depth and humor to a tale that could be any of our stories," says artistic director Martha Demson. But the play is about a lot more than how to deal with aging parents. "It's a beautiful story about the love of family and how much that influences our life decisions," explains Allison, who also directed last year's reading. "It's about the battle we all fight within ourselves to live up to parental expectations, both real and imagined." The production stars Ben Martin (Tom Jacobson's Walking to Buchenwald at Open Fist) as 85-year-old Walter Vaughn; Lynn Milgrim (Otherwise Engaged on Broadway; Wedding Band, Tonight at 8:30, The Malcontent at Antaeus) as Frances, his 83-year-old wife; Laura Richardson (Open Fist productions of Murray Mednick's The Gary Plays, Curse of the Starving Class) as daughter Jill, a successful Hollywood television writer who is as attentive as a daughter can be while living 3,000 miles away; and Art Hall (upcoming film Chasing the Sun) as son Ricky, a recovering addict tasked with caring for his aging parents who must now deal with the return of his "perfect" sister. Also in the cast are Bryan Bertone and Stephanie Crothers, both recently seen in Open Fist's L.A. Times "Critic's Choice" production of Under Milk Wood, and newcomer Bronte Scoggins. In addition to directing, Allison designs the set along with technical director Jan Munroe and consultant James Spencer. The creative team also includes lighting designer Ellen Monocroussos, sound designer Peter Carlstedt, co-prop masters Bruce Dickinson, Ina Shumaker and Dionna Veremis, and graphic designer Mark Harbeke. The production stage manager is Jennifer Palumbo, and Katie May Porter produces for Open Fist Theatre Company. A post-performance talk back series will feature guest moderators Diana Gabaldon, New York Times best selling author of the "Outlander" novels, on Saturday, Jan. 19; and Fred Golan, writer/producer of Justified on FX and Amazon Prime's Sneaky Pete, on Saturday, Feb. 16. Watch for announcements of additional talk-back dates and moderators at www.openfist.org. Open Fist Theatre Company is a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members. The company's name combines the notion that an open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas, is essential, with the idea that determination, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness. Last Call runs Jan. 18 through Feb. 23 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.and Sundays at 2 p.m., except Sunday Feb. 17 which will be at 7:30 p.m. Four preview performances take place on Friday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Jan. 13 at 2 p.m.; and Thursday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 with advance purchase, $30 at the door, except opening night, Jan. 18, which is $35 advance purchase and $40 at the door and includes a post-performance catered reception; the performances on Saturday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 16, which are $50 advance purchase and $55 at the door, and include post-performance discussions led respectively by Diana Gabaldon and Fred Golan; and previews, which are Pay-What-You-Want. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.