Once upon a time, there were no movie houses and no television sets. When people wanted to be inspired, touched and tickled, they had to go see a play.
Happily, you can still find all that and more with “Ten Cent Night” at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank. It’s an offbeat fairy tale about a Texas family devastated by their country-western singer-father and drawn together again by his suicide
And it’s not out to change the world, but it’s like up-and-coming Chicago playwright Marisa Wegrzyn wants us to love the world the way it can be. What may seem like slightly boring exposition in the first act turns into fireworks by the second half. It’s as if the fabulous seven-member cast takes the author’s somewhat convoluted story lines and ties them to a rocket.
So what if they are playing drunks, or thieves, or prudes, or mutes, or whores, or incest victims, or crazy mixed-up teenagers? Two hours in their company is not enough.
Tara Buck is wildly wonderful as Roby Finley, hiding her courage in bad choices and a bottle of bourbon. Martin Papazian is two parts equally sweet and moving as mute bag-man Danny Doucet, connecting more with his eyes and his hands than a thousand words ever could.
Alison Rood as 16-year-old Sadie Finley, and Shane Zwiner as her fraternal twin brother, Holt, bring reality, focus and hilarity to the awful task of surviving into adulthood.
Caitlin Muelder as the ever-responsible Dee Finley makes bitterness and jealously seem as logical as taking another breath. Gareth Williams as Roscoe is so convincing he might as well have just stepped out of a Cadillac with Texas plates and stomped into the theater in cowboy boots.
And Kathy Bailey as Lila Mozelle, a businesswoman in the world’s oldest and most profitable profession, is a marvel of skill, wit and substance.
The lion’s share of credit for this fantastic ensemble work goes to director Maria Gobetti. She not only found seven such talented people, she was able to help them walk, talk and look as if they’d never said or done any of these things before.
Lauren Tyler’s costumes deftly enhance everything the actors are already showing us about their characters. Set designer Gary Randall does a great job of taking a small sliver of stage and turning it into a wide prairie.
It’s not clear what else could be done with some of the evening/indoor and intimate scenes. They need a little more light, and a little more sound, to make them understandable to audience members in the back row.
Yet more light and more sound might undermine the fragile reality that cast and crew have done such a fine job to create.
“Ten Cent Night” is a comedy, of course, with just enough of a threat behind it to make the happy ending one more pleasant surprise in an evening full of pleasant surprises. So, if an old-fashioned approach to new-fashioned humor might be just the thing you want from your hard-earned dollars, “Ten Cent Night” is worth every penny.
MARY BURKIN is a Burbank actress and playwright and Glendale lawyer.