45 Minutes From Broadway:" Crazy Family Makes Great Comedy on Stage

  Henry Jaglom's new play "Just 45 Minutes from Broadway," presented by the Rainbow Theatre Company, gives audience insight in to what it is like being a part of a family full of stage actors.  Soliloquies being recited in the backyard at lunch and monologues being blurted out in the middle of conversations seem to be the only way the Isaac family communicates with one another.

      Jaglom is known for putting women in the lead role, and has continued his tradition in his new play. Meet Pandora (a.k.a. Panda), a 30-year-old out of work actress who has moved back home with her parents after yet another failed relationship. Panda is an outspoken redhead, who seems to have a witty charm that almost gets her everything she wants.  She is funny, yet pitiful, and blames a lot of the family woes on herself. Although Panda is the protagonist of the play, her spotlight is almost taken by her roommates.

      Grisha ( Jack Heller), her father that is addicted to sleeping pills and Vivien (Diane Louise Salinger), her mother who was named after the great Vivien Leigh, are deeply loving characters who try to give their daughter the wisest of advice.  Although their characters provide some of the comical relief, they dramatically portray the seriousness of their situation as old, out of work parents during the current hard economic times.

     Also living in the house is Vivien's brother Larry (David Proval) and his lover/long time family friend Sally (Harry Schock). Together these two take dramatic pauses and cut them off with classy quotes such as, "There are no such thing as small actors, only small…penises."

   The real story is behind Panda's older sister Betsy ( Julie Davis) , who was so sick of living a chaotic life, moved to the City several years before to find rules and normalcy. Betsy comes home to introduce her fiancée, Jimmy who is a ‘civilian' to the rest of her family, along with huge plans that will turn her family even more upside down than it already is, or in her eyes, right side up.

 Almost anything that you can imagine going wrong goes wrong. Panda upsets Betsy time after time, Grisha and Vivien reveal secrets of their past that the kids wish they never knew,  and here's the real shocker - Betsy realizes she's not even in love with Jimmy, instead she was just looking for someone organized just so she didn't have the life she once left.

After twists and turns, cries and laughs, there is of course a happy ending. Vivien's last words are, "See Grisha, those two clouds are us… and the one floating away on its own is Betsy. She's going to be alright." And after that came a standing ovation.

    Despite the drawn out speeches, this story of a dysfunctional family seemed very real. All of the key elements of a real-life drama had appeared before myself and the audience, including a love triangle. Panda, played by Tanna Frederick, was relatable in the sense that she was lost. Not being successful in the love department, and finding it hard to land a job is a pretty common story among young women during these times.

A character that was supposed to be liked by the audience was Betsy's  fiancée Jimmy, played by David Garver. Yes, he was supposed to be a structured man who broke out of his shell, revealing his inner chaotic self upon meeting the Isaacs, but he seemed to just cause a lot of tension between the two sisters, and almost made matters worse in a frustrating way. He was a very believable character, yet just another problem to add onto Betsy's list.

The whole atmosphere of this close-knitted family was brought together by their home. Betsy saw it as ‘decrepit and rotting' yet to the members of the house it was their sanctuary.  A cozy living room with a fireplace adjacent to the dining area which leads to the backyard is all furnished with earth tones and wood pieces. The backyard is complete with a picnic bench and a chair swing hanging from a huge oak tree. A true country-side home that even has an attic sets the tone for what kind of family the Isaac's really are; warm, nurturing and caring even though seemingly loopy most of the time.

The whole theme behind Jaglom's play is family togetherness. Although Betsy becomes somewhat estranged from her family, she tells Panda she misses her just can't stand to be with her. They bring out the real intentions of what kind of man Jimmy is going to be and as an audience member you will feel compelled to run and tell your family the truth after the show is over.

Just 45 Minutes from Heaven will continue until Sunday, December 20 at the Edgemar Theater, located at 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405.