A House for Martha

Shem Bitterman’s new play Open House has some engaging moments. But not enough of them. In the beginning real estate agent Chuck (a consistently spectacular

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Robert Cicchini) sits alone in a folding chair in an empty living room waiting for a prospective buyer to show up. He twitches and fiddles for an entire day in what feels like real time. “This is like watching paint dry,” my friend remarked. But later he has a marvelous scene in which he practices offering upbeat encouragement to a potential customer, should one show up. And finally she does, in the person of Martha, an emotional basket-case who gets a “bad vibe” from the house. This turns out to be a red herring, since nothing horrendous actually happened there and her “bad vibe” is never pinned down. Martha is played by Eve Gordon, who matches Chuck twitch for twitch, and is alternately ice cold or partially deranged. She has a few engaging moments when she speaks of her divorce and the death of her child. Chuck is insistent and persistent and appears desperate to have her buy the house. You get the sense that his job is at stake, but that’s not his motivation. By the end you may have guessed where the play is going, but it’s not a satisfying ending. And the last line doesn’t make any logical sense. This two-person play is an ongoing collaboration between the actors, the playwright, and the director, Steve Zuckerman. Playwright Bitterman has worked with Zuckerman on his plays A Death in Colombia and Influence, which dealt with shenanigans at the World Bank. His plays are usually political and provocative. Open House is neither, and while it has its moments, it doesn’t quite work. To judge for yourself, call 702-582-8587 for reservations. Open House will continue at The Skylight Theater Company, 1816½ North Vermont Ave., in Los Angeles. It runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 and 7 pm through August 25th.

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