I've harbored a not-so-secret aversion to one-person plays ever since I witnessed my friend Robert being pulled up onto stage by a woman in clown make-up who screamed at him and forced him to ram a giant rubber penis into a giant rubber vagina over and over again. I am not making that up, and I am scarred for life. (But not as much as Robert, who went home and rocked back and forth traumatically while having "I Am a Rock" blast through his stereo on repeat.)
If it's not Eric Bogosian, Mike Daisey, Spalding Gray, Jeff Greenwald, Danny Hoch, Sarah Jones, John Leguizamo, Will Power, Julia Sweeney, Lily Tomlin, or Marc Wolf, then I ain't seeing it. You can entice me with comps or even shirtless male ticket takers (why hasn't anyone thought of that yet?), but I will not go.
What was I to do, then, when I received an invitation to Chalk Repertory Theatre's latest production, Full Disclosure, a one-woman show that's as one-woman as they come? I mean, there are only two—count 'em, two!—theater companies in all of Los Angeles in which I want to go see every one of their productions: East West Players and Chalk Rep. I consider shows by other companies on a case-by-case basis, as if I were a one-man college admissions office.
I've grown to love Chalk Rep over the course of its first five productions (of "classical and contemporary plays in unconventional spaces"), and I've gotten to know the core members of the company and even recruited some of them for projects at USC—so I did the only thing I could do: waited as long as humanly possibly to RSVP until I worked up the mental confidence that I would be able to withstand the psychic pain that would seize me if Full Disclosure ended up sinking to the level of Rubber Penis/Rubber Vagina Theater. Psychologically prepared, I said yes.
When I got home after the opening night performance last week, I excitedly started telling Loren about it. He promptly hushed me because he wanted to go see the show and he felt like I was ruining the experience for him. (Or did he just want to hush me, period?)
So, in order to not give too much away, I'll briefly explain that the conceit of Full Disclosure is that the audience is attending an open house, presented by a real estate agent named Sunny. During the course of the 75-minute evening, in which she tries to push cookies and drinks in an effort to ease you into her sales pitch, she delves into the house's colorful history, as well as her own. The performance takes place in an actual house that's on the market, which, if you can't imagine, is pretty freaking cool.
Ruth McKee's script is light and conversational—even when it explores Sunny's questionable hopes for the future and her unshakable shattered dreams, it never gets maudlin. Larissa Kokernot's directing navigates the sometimes unexpected emotional beats smoothly. And Amy Ellenberger's instantly engaging and funny performance paints a picture of a woman whose capacity for self-delusion is ultimately sad—or is just an elaborate ruse, an act of salesmanship as meticulously planned out as a Chalk Rep production?
Chalk Repertory Theatre's production of Full Disclosure by Ruth McKee runs through June 13 2010, in private homes throughout Los Angeles.
Visit the Chalk Rep website for tickets and more information.