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Review: ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at Road Theatre Company

Review: ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at Road Theatre Company

It is another solid offering from the Road Theatre Company, which is a consistently underrated and reliable source of thoughtful and thought-provoking Los Angeles theater.

The world premiere of Arlene Hutton's ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is a lively slice-of-life look at the backstage antics of an unnamed Broadway show (that's been running longer than CATS) in 1984. Set in a quick-change room devoted to six chorus girls and their three dressers, the makeshift family squabbles, complains, and supports each other over the course of 15 tumultuous months-tumultuous in the women's personal and professional lives as well as in the world swirling around them-touching on domestic abuse, AIDS, social stratification, and eating disorders.

Hutton's (THE NIBROC TRILOGY) script might seem a little surface because it skims from vignette to vignette and you have to fill in the blanks of what has happened in the time since the last scene based on inferences, but it also has resonance because of that same conceit. It handles its themes adroitly and respects the audience's intelligence enough to know that the members will be able to keep up without having the story spoon-fed to them. Despite some of the heavy issues (the mid '80s were indeed a time of great change, political and social), the script is not heavy handed, which works in its favor.

Review: ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at Road Theatre Company
Amy Tolsky, Jacqueline Misaye,
Avery Clyde, and Samantha Tan

Each character is well defined, and while you might not remember each of their names, you will remember who they are on sight as each of them has an arc that changes them over the course of the show. The three dressers in particular-empathetic recovering actor-cum-aspiring playwright KJ (Samantha Tan); aging, salty, over-it Brenda (Amy Tolsky); and forthright but frustrated everywoman Audrey (Avery Clyde)-are standouts, grounding the action while the frivolous chorines gossip about their dramas and feel superior to their blue-collar valets. KJ is our entrée to the world, replacing a male valet who has had to drop out-who replaced another who had to drop out, the implication being AIDS-and she's surprised to find her ex-husband, Peter, who is now with a male partner, is a dresser for the male actors in the show. In a lesser writer's hands, this would have been a cheap gimmick to create conflict, but, while there is tension between them at first, it's handled deftly, without treacle or melodrama.

Review: ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS at Road Theatre Company
Jacqueline Misaye, Danny Lee Gomez,
and Gloria Ines

Director Emily Chase makes fantastic use of her space (the scenic design by Paul Dufresne feels both confined and freeing, which is a feat) considering that at times there are nine or ten performers on the stage in addition to wardrobes, vanities, and chairs, moving her actors through their motions in almost nonstop movement while never distracting from the forward movement of the story. The pathos in the script are realized in breezy, colorful ways with a streak of melancholy marbled throughout. The '80s are remembered as the most fun decade in recent memory but they were rife with strife and upheaval that affected everyone, even if they were living in a Broadway bubble, and this show looks back with clear-eyed, unsentimental affection.

A semi-finalist at the prestigious National Playwrights Conference in 2021, ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is another solid offering from the Road Theatre Company, which is a consistently underrated and reliable source of thoughtful and thought-provoking Los Angeles theater.

ACCORDING TO THE CHORUS is performed at the Road Theatre, located in The NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., in North Hollywood through December 11. For tickets, call 818-761-8838 or visit www.RoadTheatre.org.

All photo credits: Peggy McCartha



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