Nothing much happens in "Pie in the Sky," Lawrence Thelen's deceptively simple new play at the Little Victory Theatre in Burbank. Then again, everything happens.
The plot is so unadorned as to seem negligible. The 85-year-old Mama (K Callan) awakens in the wee hours to bake a birthday pie for her 65-year-old daughter, Dory (Laurie O'Brien). The clatter awakens Dory, who is pressed into service by Mama. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the women bake an apple pie from start to finish as the aroma of apples and cinnamon fills the theater.
Evan Bartoletti's beautifully detailed set, which includes a fully functioning kitchen, is the somewhat claustrophobic milieu in which the two women bustle, bicker, snipe and, most frequently, richly amuse each other. It's clear that the two can drive each other crazy. It's also clear that they are indispensable to the other.
Although trapped in a failing body, delightfully vulgar Mama has an untrammeled appetite for fun. Dory, traumatized by a past tragedy, expects little from life. During the course of their pie-making, Mama reveals secrets. Other revelations, only hinted at, remain obscure — a testament to Thelen's dramatic restraint.
Director Maria Gobetti's staging is so truthful and slice-of-life that we feel like voyeurs peering into the window of Mama's cozily appointed Texas mobile home. Callan and O'Brien — veteran actors both — turn in modestly scaled performances that sneak up on you with an emotional sucker punch.
And for those who consider baking, and cooking in general, a dying art, this show is a timely illustration of just how exacting those disciplines can be. As Mama practices it, baking is a militaristic exercise that requires exactitude at every juncture — a fitting metaphor for this precisely rendered and memorably aromatic show.
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‘Pie in the Sky’
Where: Little Victory Theatre, 3324 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; ends May 21
Information: (818) 841-5422, www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
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