Bruce Norris’ latest work, A Parallelogram, is a hilarious existential ride.
It’s currently enjoying its West Coast premiere at the Mark Taper Forum through Aug. 18.
First lets deal with the elephant in the room. The title of this project doesn’t exactly make one jump at the thought of seeing it. Websters describes a parallelogram as a quadrilateral with opposite sides parallel and equal – namely a rectangle, square or rhombus. Ok, I’ll admit including the definition just now only makes matters worse.
Trying to explain A Parallelogram is probably as confusing as the mathematic equation itself.
Marin Ireland plays a woman (Bee) who is having a mysterious encounter with what may be her older self (Bee 2, Bee 3and Bee 4) played hilariously by MaryLouise Burke
Doling out information here and there, the older chain-smoking, self warns Bee about upcoming and pending events and even gives her relationship advice.
One day, out of the blue, Bee solicits a response from her live in boyfriend, Jay, (Tom Irwin) by asking the following question. “If you knew in advance exactly… how everything was going to turn out,” she says, “and if you knew you couldn’t do anything to change it, would you still want to go on with your life?”
The question leaves Jay perplexed. And eventually, after some strange things start occurring around their apartment, Jay begins to suspect his girlfriend is losing it.
First, he keeps smelling cigarettes in the apartment, although Bee denies she smokes. It’s actually Bee 2 smoking. How Jay can smell it since she’s in another dimension – is too difficult to figure out even with Bee 2’s explanation.
Enter JJ (Carlo Alban), the Hispanic gardener, who somehow gets thrown into the mix. All but JJ have cynicism dripping from their veins.
This is a rag tag group that has to find their way through the muck and mire of what’s real, but more importantly, what matters. It’s about being thankful for what one has. The grass is not always greener.
Bruce Norris (who won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony for Clybourne Park, his answer to A Raisin In The Sun) is a vivid and witty writer. His prose in A Parallelogram is snappy and smart. He asks questions of his audience – many of which don’t have an answer. One of the questions he asks is if fate exists — if your life was predetermined and could not be changed — would you want to live it? The ploy is used to get a conversation going – it works. The real question is whether Bee 2, Bee 3 and Bee 4 and her magical remote control that allows time to be rewound, actually exist.
This speculative comedy, which begs to question whether we can actually effect change in our own lives, is performed by a stellar cast. Marin Ireland is believable and splendid as a woman in the throws of introspection. Tom Irwin’s performance is masterful. MaryLouise Burke is hilarious with her deadpan responses and delivery. Carlo Alban delivers a subtle, yet poignant performance.
The true star of this show is Todd Rosenthal’s set. It’s brilliant! It effortlessly goes from swanky apartment, to hospital, back to apartment in seconds.
Kudos to everyone involved in this production.
A Parallelogram, written by Bruce Norris and directed by Anna D. Shapiro, stars Carlo Alban, MaryLouise Burke, Marin Ireland and Tom Irwin.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work) L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent/exquisite), A Parallelogram gets an E (excellent).
A Parallelogram, Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; Tues.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2:30 and 8 p.m., Sun. 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., through Aug. 18; $20-$70; 213 628 2772, CenterTheatreGroup.org