Review: LET ME IN at Theatre 68 Arts Complex

The comedy about grief runs through April 2 in North Hollywood

By: Mar. 08, 2023
Review: LET ME IN at Theatre 68 Arts Complex

Writer-director Brynn Thayer's LET ME IN is a sharp, sometimes scathing look at grief and how we each uniquely process it. Premiering at Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie in North Hollywood, the show varies from insightful to manic, bordering on shrill but never crossing into it thanks to strong performances from well-cast performers and Thayer's tight direction.

It opens with Red Casey (Rachael Meyers), an ESPN sideline reporter, desperately attempting to get Bobby Hawk (Bryan McKinley) out of the bathroom of his slovenly New York City apartment in which he's locked himself. Red's best friend and Bobby's fiancée was killed in a car crash and they are late to her funeral-which is taking place on the day Bobby and she were initially intending to marry. Throw in a policeman, Hamilton Steele III (Jorge Garcia), called by neighbors to quell Red and Bobby's arguing, and-while it doesn't become a powder keg-revelations and secrets come to light.

Review: LET ME IN at Theatre 68 Arts Complex
Rachael Meyers and Bryan McKinley

Thayer's script has heft; there are big themes involved-life after death, the right to die-balancing the comedy, though there is almost too much to the story as it never leaves Bobby's cramped apartment and plays out (essentially) in real time. Perhaps it's Thayer's soap opera past shining through (she played the long-suffering Jenny on "One Life to Live" in the eighties) with plot twists and cliches abounding. There's nothing wrong with a great soap-I mean, I'm always down for an evil-twin twist-but a 90-minute show (no intermission) would be better served if it weren't quite so overstuffed. So many skeletons come bounding out of closets, it becomes melodramatic, undermining the power of the story and the characters' arcs. While it makes sense that Hamilton's working his last day, that trope is so overused it practically induces a groan. And (SPOILER) as soon as Red and Bobby are revealed as being about the same age, you know they're going to hook up, despite the fact that they're supposed to be going to her BFF's/his fiancé's funeral.

Regardless, Thayer creates colorful characters with sharp points of view and personalities who are trudging through messy, disjointed lives. The actors acquit themselves well in wacky, physical roles with rapid-fire dialogue, which is difficult for many performers. Red is acerbic and incisive as she tries to juggle both Bobby and Hamilton in the midst of a chaotic day, and Meyers grounds her with a dorky/sexy humanity. Garcia bases his Hamilton in pathos and cheerfulness as he ingratiates himself into Red and Bobby's drama. And McKinley is the perfect Everyman who is in way over his head. Bobby could easily be played as a man-child, but here he is a well-developed adult who's simply lost without his fiancé and struggling under the weight of secrets and guilt.

Review: LET ME IN at Theatre 68 Arts Complex
Rachael Meyers, Jorge Garcia
and Bryan McKinley

That makes it sound much darker than it is, because LET ME IN, at its heart, is a comedy (Red and Hamilton even perform the Monica-Ross dance from the "Friends" episode "The One With the Routine" and it's pretty fantastic), one that presents us with three people processing grief and making no judgment on how they try to move through it, knowing they'll have to live in its constant shadow for the rest of their lives. There is a needlessly drawn-out ending that undercuts what's come before, which may be the point, though it comes out of nowhere, and a revelation about the dead friend/fiancé throws our heroes into a tailspin and it, again, undermines what's already been established. The script would be stronger if it pulled back on the histrionics.

The scenic design by Joel Daavid perfectly encapsulates the abode of a single, straight man in a moment of flux, and the teeny, black box stage creates a sense of claustrophobia representing how the characters feel trapped in their grief. Unfortunately, the seating is also weirdly, uncomfortably tight, so be forewarned. There's no wiggle room in your seats. Regardless, the show is worth your time if you aren't averse to being packed and pinched in the audience, because, in the end, as crammed as it is with plot twists, it packs a punch.

LET ME IN is performed at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex - The Rosalie, 5112 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood, through April 2 Tickets are available at www.theatre68artscomplex.com or by calling (818) 691-3001.

Photos by Jeff Lorch

LET ME IN and Theatre 68 Arts Complex are also part of LA Theatre Week, which offers discounted tickets on a large number of shows throughout the Southland and which runs from March 13 through March 26. Full information can be found at https://www.theatreweek.com/los-angeles/.




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