Playwright Chelsea Sutton directs her own whimsical yet thoughtful play, 99 Impossible Things, over at the Eclectic Company Theatre in NoHo. In it, a handful of twenty-somethings (more or less) congregate at the cozy, lounge-y Magic Bean coffee shop, hanging out and seeking refuge. Eventually each of their various and poignant life stories is revealed in Sutton”™s examination of loss and the difficult process of grieving.
So, while the play kicks off with some light, comedic banter, pretty soon the play”™s themes take on a more serious tone. Everyone here, it seems, has something troubling in their past that they either having trouble coming to terms with or refusing to face.
At the onset, a trench coated fellow, Harold (Jason Britt), delivers a slightly hardboiled yet thoughtful monologue, declaring himself a pragmatist. His quest, we learn, is to either invent or assemble the titular 99 “˜impossible things,”™ such as his idea for a “grow a puppy” kit. It makes for some quirky conversations, including the observation, “Some people need an impossible thing to believe in.” One typical and funny exchange is when a character barks at Harold, “You don”™t have to be rude!” Harold”™s gruff response – “It”™s not rude if it”™s true!” – gets you laughing and thinking. But as his obsession with his inventions becomes more manic, it”™s apparent there”™s a lot of tension simmering beneath the surface, especially as he keeps frequenting the cafÃ© his deceased fiancÃ©e Emilia used to run with her now forlorn sister. Ellen (Tiffany Cole) is the gal who now manages the Magic Bean coffee shop minus her sister and she is a grouchy, inflexible proprietor.
The nutty homeless woman Alice (Barbara Scolaro), who uses the coffee shop as her sanctuary from roughing it on the street, keeps pestering people with her lousy card tricks. But was she once really a magician?Â How did she become the hopeless case she is today?
Flitting around our troubled heroes and heroines are an assortment of mythical creatures, that only each of them can hear or see, such as a playful, silent and pretty Sea Monkey girl (Jillian Easton) clad in an aquamarine-blue filmy outfit with three antlers sprouting from her head.
Ellen has an equally grumpy guardian angel Gabie (RJ Farrington) who only reveals herself when she wants to converse with her charge and they share some funny and prickly rapid-fire banter.
Then there”™s the anti-social, leather-jacket wearing Jaye (Jessica Lightfoot) – who or what is she running from? And does she have to smoke real cigarettes?!? Yuck!
There may not be a cohesive plot, just a collection of stories about people on the verge of a breakdown, but Chelsea Sutton”™s 99 Impossible Things chock full of fanciful ideas and may find a soft spot in your heart.
99 Impossible Things
5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 7 p.m., through Feb. 13th 2011.
Review by Pauline Adamek