Imagine you spend the night with someone for the first time. It’s not quite a one night stand because you both hope it could turn into something more, but it’s still new, and a little awkward. Then imagine that person learns a horrifying family tragedy has occurred, and before you know it, you are quite literally in the middle of the drama when their larger-than-life relatives descend upon your home, unannounced, all before you’ve even finished your coffee.
This is the predicament Helen (Dale Waddington) finds herself in in Currency, a new play written by Jennie Webb and produced by The Inkwell Theater. What begins as an incredibly ordinary situation—a slightly uncomfortable morning-after—quickly devolves into something absurd. Provided you are able to open your mind to the more ridiculous and even at times farcical elements of the piece, Currency is a charming examination of how we relate to others and the unique perspective and experiences we each have to offer the world.
While she definitely becomes the so-called “straight man” of this comedy, Helen clearly has some issues herself. Her mother has been dead for years, but the Los Angeles house she inherited still resembles a 70s time capsule, right down to the antique dolls on the bed. Dan (Warren Davis) is a soft-spoken, unassuming, mild-mannered man, the type who will pretend he is a coffee drinker because the girl he likes made him some. How they handle a crisis can tell us a lot about a person, and Helen and Dan certainly learn a lot about each other as the day unfolds, regardless of if they necessarily wanted to.
None of the adjectives used to describe Dan apply to his siblings, who storm into Helen’s house like a hurricane. His Type-A, businesslike sister, Rae (Gina Torrecilla) has no respect for boundaries and is the type to make herself right at home. Their younger brother, Sparky (Josh Stamell) is clearly the oddball of the family, the one who has a lot of big ideas but never quite gets it together. Throw in Helen’s best friend and co-worker, Georgia (Shirley Jordan), who is in the middle of her own crisis, and you really have a party.
Webb’s writing and Annie McVey’s direction nicely balance the line between the ordinary and the extraordinary, taking a very contained situation and expanding it into a very dramatic and funny one. The cast is also excellent, and the juxtaposition of the more meek main characters with their boisterous guests makes for a really fun 75 minutes. The tiny VS. Theatre really makes you feel as if you are also right there in Helen’s bedroom, in the middle of the action, as her day spirals further and further out of control. The events escalate smartly, only feeling a bit unbelievable in the final moments.
The play’s title can be interpreted in a few ways—Sparky uses the term more literally when talking about his non-traditional world views, but it can also be applied more figuratively to mean what assets (both physical and emotional) people bring to relationships and to life. Sometimes the world moves very quickly and unexpected things happen, and it’s up to us to figure out what is important. Currency is very much about learning to embrace the moment, as crazy as it may be, and the importance of genuine human connection in an overwhelming world.
Currency runs through May 21st as a guest production at the VS. Theatre (5453 W Pico Blvd). Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm. There are only five performances left, so visit www.inkwelltheater.com for more information and to purchase tickets, which are $25.