Family fantasies

Timothy McNeil’s new play, Machu Picchu, Texas, now having its world premiere at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood, is like a Chinese meal: satisfying and absorbing at the time, but leaving you hungry an hour later and wondering “What was all that about?” It’s an angry, dysfunctional family again, folks, but this time the intensity is mitigated by a cast that is uniformly excellent and a set designed by Michael Fitzgerald and Aidan Fiorito that is tightly partitioned and amazingly cluttered. Harold (Tom Stancyzk), the paterfamilias of the Ogden family, is a cynical, abrasive bully, a drunk who splatters vitriol on everyone around him. His long-suffering wife Sonia (Bonnie McNeil) is the quintessential hostess, continually making peace and cupcakes. They have a daughter Melissa (Meghan Cox) who is given to histrionics and an affair with her first cousin. The cousin, Terry Foster (Matt Magnusson) is described by his family as “fragile,” but he appears more confused than fragile. He has dropped out of college temporarily and is disconnected from his life and his future. Terry’s mother Rhonda (a savagely bitter Tara Stewart Thornton) is Sonia Ogden’s sister, and her bitterness is stoked by her husband Charlie’s incapacities. Charlie has been violently assaulted by a gang of thugs and is in a wheelchair. Although his thinking processes seem to be intact, he speaks painfully slowly, stammering and stuttering his way though each sentence. Charlie, played by playwright and director Timothy McNeil, is the focal point of everyone’s attention, and he is depicted as a saint. If this were the Middle Ages, he would be canonized. He is kind, generous, concerned, and inordinately helpful. Also in the mix are June (Heidi Sulzman), a long-time friend, and her oafish husband Donnie (John K. Linton). June is the one who labels Harold a delusional, pompous ass and bully. To which Harold responds, “We are all trapped—each in his own way.” Sonia, his wife, is happily trapped in her fantasy of Machu Picchu and delivers a soliloquy on what it must have been like to live there in its heyday. This is a play about illusions, delusions, and dreams. The overriding message being “People become delusional when their dreams turn to fantasy.” And the corollary, “Delusion is the key to happiness.”

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Machu Picchu, Texas, will continue in the Irene Gilbert Theatre at the Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Boulevard, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and 7 pm on Sundays through February 17th. Call 323-960-7735 for reservations. Photo: Meghan Cox and Matt Magnusson Courtesy Stella Adler Theatre

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