“Miss Lilly Gets Boned,” having its West Coast premiere at Rogue Machine, is an early play by Bekah Brunstetter, who went on to work as a writer and producer for the hit television series “This Is Us.” Brunstetter’s play “The Cake,” a timely comedy about a North Carolina baker torn between the ties of old friendship and her religious scruples about baking a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, generated a fair degree of press on both coasts.
“Boned” shows the audacity — and the limitations — of a nascent playwright trying to find a mature artistic voice in too many clamorous registers.
The action is split between a Baptist congregation somewhere in the United States and Nigeria, where a rogue elephant is undergoing intensive therapy, apparently to address its killer impulses and to save it from the gallows.
Back in the U.S., we meet Miss Lilly (Larisa Oleynik), a 35-year-old virgin whose chats with the Almighty include frequent exhortations to send her that someone special she’s been saving herself for. The prayer seems answered when Richard (Iman Nazemzadeh) arrives on the scene. Rapturous seduction follows, but Lilly soon realizes that, where Richard is concerned, she has driven her elephants to a very poor market indeed.
The cast includes Kavi Ladnier as the elephant therapist; Justice Quinn, who voices the elephant; Tasha Ames as Lilly’s unregenerately promiscuous sister; and Brady Amaya as Richard’s bereaved son, whose mother was recently killed.
The actors play well to their stereotypes, and Sean Cawelti’s amazing elephant puppet is a design highlight. However, director Robin Larsen cannot quite corral Brunstetter’s thematic irregularities, nor her confusing sampling of styles. The apocalyptic pachyderms echo Ionesco’s “Rhinoceros,” while Lilly is a Candide-esque naïf who is in for a harsh schooling. The action vaults from the twee to the dire, with much of the action cast in such an unlikely context that we are left questioning the time frame, the chronology of events, the motivations of the characters and the point that Brunstetter is trying to make in her imaginative but frustratingly flawed comedy. Or is that drama?
When: 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Mondays, through Oct. 28.
Info: (855) 585-5185, www.roguemachinetheatre.com
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