Saturday, April 14, 2018

Whoopsie Doopsie! (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Small confession time.  When I see a play doing something I've never seen before--well, that counts as a huge plus in what passes for my heart.

Whoopsie Doopsie, written and directed by Art Shulman tackles an event in lives of two teenagers, fairly typical young people who might be almost any reasonably affluent, comfortable and well-meaning pair in some suburbia.  I say "some" because this play takes place in a weird world, a place where language and sound effects helps create a slightly clown-like world.  Here people say words like "decidify" and the like--recognizable yet not.

Credit: ZJU
Billy (Nima Rad) and Joannie (Camille Aragon) are in love, and decide to have sex in the most responsible of ways.  She goes on the pill.  He uses a condom.  When you think about it, what happens next pretty much gives a notion of what kind of world the play has us visit.

She gets pregnant.  In other words, we are not in control.

Every popular, eager to be faithful, with loads of vague ambition and an almost untested conscience, Billy now must figure out what to do.  And like many a teenager in this (and other) situations, he proceeds to act with a blend of cleverness, imagination and raw foolishness.  He proves more than our central character, but our narrator as well.  In effect we get a bird's eye view almost inside his head as this event forces him into the next level of maturity--he and Joannie.

Credit: ZJU
Along the way, we meet a variety of characters such as parents, doctors, class-mates, abortion clinic protestors, a handful of doctors, etc.  Cast members Jesseal Amelia, Mary Alice Farina, Ellen Biedenfield, Warren Hall and Casey Hunter play all the other roles.  They highlight the best thing about the production, the cast's energy and willingness to simply dive into the story 110%, no holding back. Most of the time their choices work.  Every now and then some note or other doesn't, but then you soon have another to experience, then another and another and another.

For a bit, in the very beginning, I feared the play might turn out a polemic, trying to tell us what to think on the subject of abortion.  The comfort lay in how it seemed unique and entertaining in style!

Credit: ZJU
Then, the lectures on subjects from the POV of the playwright never arrived. Rather it played out with the characters trying to figure out what this might mean,  how to handle or predict the reactions of others, letting their imaginations stir up fantasies to explain the whys and wherefores. 

At play's end, we see just some characters confronted by a situation, by decisions they don't want to make, yet must decide anyway, then grow up a little bit as a direct result.  All in a quirky style including spoonfuls of Dr. Seus, Mr. Rogers and just possibly a sprinkling of The Twilight Zone.  I could make some technical notes, longing for an equally quirky set, some more stylized costumes. etc.  But those remain secondary. 

Whoopsie Doopsie plays Mondays at 7:30pm and Saturdays at 2pm until April 22, at Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim (just south of the NoHo Sign), North Hollywood CA 91601.

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