Of course, it only works when you know what you need,” smiles lingerie salesman Jimmy (Jai Sahai), as his sheer, firetruck red wares sparkle in their closet—and will throughout the play.
“My attitude is this,” explains Valerie (Leontyne Mbele-Mbong), a forlorn African-American accounts-payable clerk, hefting a safari rifle with scope, “if you take the time to really kill something, you want to do it right.”
Factor in Rose (Elissa Dunn), who tells her best friend Nicole (Cindy Im) about bringing her “escort” to a bullfight (Roy Landaverde as Miguel) on her vacation to Spain back home with her (“But he doesn’t speak English!” Nicole objects, to which Rose sighs, “Isn’t it amazing?”), followed by Nicole’s serial dreams of a shirtless matador Miguel with herself as the bull—and Alicia (Marissa Keltie), a young woman with a grand manner and a big rock she keeps flashing on her left hand, who discovers to her dismay what her “perfect” fiance Stan (Timothy Redmond) wears underneath when she wants him to slip on the polo shirt she bought, so he can join Daddy at the country club (“I never would’ve guessed that’s where you got your swagger!” she later tells him) ...
And you have the human ingredients for Impact Theatre’s production of their third Steve Yockey (playwright-in-residence at Marin Theatre Company) play, Large Animal Games, a co-premiere with Dad’s Garage Theatre in Atlanta, directed by Impact artistic director Melissa Hillman.
There are lots of clever plays out there—or plays trying to be clever, even profound—that rehash sitcom material, or insert a thoughtful moment in same, most of them a little bit less theatrical than a rerun of “Friends” (often directed, after all, by veterans of The Committee and other venerable comic theaters), merely performed live, apparently without canned laughter.
But Large Animal Games is a little bit different—and a lot more enjoyable—than these two-dimensional hybrids. Employing the live stage and its conceits, it expands on an amusing roommate/friend/fiance milieu situation, a pretty typical post-adolescent “aha!” fest, and graces it with a touch of ambiguity, a little fantasy, tweaking the plot and dialogue, letting both—and the actors—stretch a little.
As Valerie tells the audience how her “be-in-charge” safari gets derailed by an encounter in Kenya with a dewy-eyed gazelle, Jimmy the ubiquitous lingerie salesman breezes into her evocation, helpful as ever, cheerfully intoning “Everybody needs something.” When Valerie protests “Get out of my grassland! You’re ruining my vacation!” he mildly replies, “Is it a grassland? I think it’s a savannah.”
The cast is right; it’s directed with a light enough touch, and the material is light and smart, up to date—very much in the spirit of Impact’s mission to entertain.
Large Animal Games
Presented by Impact Theatre at 8 p.m.
Thursday–Saturday through Dec. 12
at La Val’s Subterranean,
1834 Euclid Ave. $12-$20.