An Oops at An Open Table
by Jim Spencer and Shirley Lorraine
Ventura’s Flying H Group Theatre Company is well known for presenting unusual and edgy works not often seen this side of Los Angeles. Its current offering, An Open Table, is no exception.
Billed as a world premiere, the piece is performed in a single act. It is set inside an upscale Chicago area restaurant and purports to follow the actions of a disgruntled group of servers (waiters, to the general public) who want to make a statement about disrespectful and ungrateful patrons in a most socially unacceptable manner.
The set is impeccable and elegant. Director extraordinaire Taylor Kasch has once again given the cast full rein to pull out all stops, and they do. Actors James James, Eric Mello, Javiera Torres, Shelby Maloney and Marques Williams play the deranged restaurant crew. All give superbly tight performances within the limitations of the script. Maloney even performs on roller skates, no small feat in the intimate setting full of tables, chairs, and……more. Brenda Evans’ role as the sole living restaurant patron is unique – performed almost entirely bound, gagged and lying on the concrete floor.
In dramatic criticism perception is everything. From our perspective the script of An Open Table is a big “Oops” because it is based on the acceptability of urban terrorism and the killing of innocent people as a means of making a statement over perceived slights…and the remorseless mastermind gets away free.
Here’s the premise of the script that is characterized as a “dark comedy.” Unhappy servers methodically plan and actually carry out the cold blooded murders of ten innocent restaurant patrons and then put their bodies in a wood chipper to make a statement. Some of eatery staff are machine-gunned by police, but the primary killer and mastermind gets away scot free with his girlfriend.
We see little difference between the play’s plot line and the urban terrorism scenarios experienced in the random massacre of journalists at a Paris newspaper by those who disagreed with its editorial policy; or the bombing of a hotel full of tourists; or the killing of innocents awaiting an airplane in Brussels.
We don’t find such human slaughter, mutilation, and the promotion of urban terrorism for revenge as being lightly or darkly funny, as being justified, or in any way edifying or instructive as art. In our view, it is simply not entertaining.
Although the playwright reportedly has extensive academic, performance and writing credits, none of the characters have any redeeming qualities. Their actions are cloaked with an abundance of “adult” language which often, as in this case, covers the fact they have nothing to say that tickles the intellect, shares a truism or insight, or justifies their existence.
In this instance we feel the Flying H Group Theatre Company made a play selection error that falls short of its past successes.
An Open Table continues for adult only audiences until April 9 at 6368 Bristol Rd (Montalvo area), Ventura. Curtain: Thursday (4/7 only), Fridays and Saturdays – 8 p.m. Sunday-4 p.m. Reservations recommended. Tickets: $15. On line: www.anopentable.brownpapertickets.com. or cash or check at the door. 901-0005