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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Ever been in a grocery store, watching a parent yell at their kid and think: 'not everyone is cut out to be a Dad'. Or maybe you're on the other side - enjoying an ice cream sundae with your toddler when an over-eager mommy blogger leans over to opine "you know, that's not really an age appropriate dessert?" There should be laws against that, right? Or at the very least some kind of interview process before you get to be a parent.

That's the setup for Susan Josephs' new play "The Interview."

It's the not too distant, slightly dystopian, future and Jenna & Steven are sitting in the waiting room of the "U.S. Department of Parenting and Child Welfare." The young couple is nervous. Today's the big day. Not for childbirth but for the interview to get permission to even consider having a child. You see the government's taken it all over: contraceptive rods implanted in every woman's arm; before you even get the notion of being a parent there are forms to fill out. Then if you're lucky, really lucky, you might get an interview. It's a 'Brave New Reproductive World.'

Jenna & Steven have been cramming for the interview for months. Steven is goal oriented so he's kept them on task, memorizing all the regulations: how much junk food is allowed in the home; how to properly administer a 'time out'. What's the right way to put a child to sleep? One word: Ferberize. Even though Jenna's not totally onboard she better get with the program because otherwise the government can come take her kid. But there are just so many rules!

Aristotle had a set of rules. (Well, it was really the neoclassicists but let's not quibble.) You probably vaguely remember them from a English class in the distant past: unity of time, place, and action. The idea was that a classical play should all happen across a single day, in one place, and concern one central, complete action. Thought was that by constraining a play you might focus it.

About twenty minutes into playwright Susan Josephs' world, I couldn't stop thinking about these rules because after dreaming up such a fertile world for political and domestic satire - she all but abandons it.

Turns out the 'interviewer', the government employee interrogating their parental motives, well she shares a couple salacious secrets with Jenna's husband. Which should be fuel to make the interview more exciting, right? Maybe even turn the tables and flip who's questioning who?

Instead?  Scene change, flashback, and fill the audience in on the backstory. But information that could have been shocking in the dramatic compression of the interview room becomes . . . well backstory. In breaking the unity of both time and place, Ms. Josephs inadvertently hijacks her own play. After the third or fourth unnecessary scene change, I longed for the confines of the play's opening scene.

It's a poetic irony that a play about invasive rules might benefit from some old fashioned rules of its own.

"The Interview" plays through October 27th at Studio/Stage on Western Boulevard.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.


Banner image credit: Steven Gunther

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