SUMMER IN HELL: 100% – BITTERSWEET [UPDATED]

Tyler Jenich and Amy K. Harmon in "Summer in Hell" presented by Brimmer Street Theatre at studio/stage theatre. Photo by Miles Brandman.

BITTERSWEET
Director David Jette turns in a polished production that includes Sarah Krainin’s redwood sun-deck set and Ian Garrett’s summer-sweltered lights. And while a superb cast looks like they’re having a field day — particularly the leering and insinuating Jenich — the play’s lack of social or psychological insights limits its figurative reach to a cynical contempt for its own characters.
Bill Raden – LA Weekly

SWEET
Mr. Jette loves to challenge his actors (he had two of them carry out a real bathtub in Leiris/Picasso!) and his audience. He is intelligent, educated, witty, personable and has a delightful dark streak. He uses all that in his direction of this piece. He never panders to the audience, but doesn’t berate them, either. He has a gentle way of conveying the delightfully callous savagery of these young men and women that makes us not only not hate them, but actually, in some dark way, admire them. And there was more broken glass in this play than I think I have ever seen on stage before. The script by Mr. Brandman was good, very funny, very compelling and very cruel.
Geoff Hoff – LA Theatre Review

SWEET
The world premiere of Miles Brandman’s play can best be compared to the drama and guilty pleasures of “Gossip Girl.” You watch with intensity and simultaneous disbelief. Nothing beats watching pretty people do bad things. The show is never stagnant, which is rare for a small cast in one setting. Director David Jette implements wonderful stage direction with smooth transitions. There is always something to watch. Whether you’re mesmerized by Pat walking around in a bikini or a hopeless fight against incest, the plot is fiercely intriguing. The four actors are all fantastic. They each play their characters with conviction and commitment to detail. Jenich perfectly portrays the mastermind of the operation. He’s always a step ahead, whether he’s scheming or just playing host.
Stephanie Forshee – Campus Circle

BITTERSWEET
Milton pursues humiliation games designed to torpedo Nick, Barbara, and their uncertain relationship, while Patricia complacently observes. It’s as cruel as the games in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with far less justification—and without the redeeming wit. As director David Jette puts it in his program notes, “For our young deviants, guilt is not an obstacle, but the inspiration for shameful acts.” He insists it’s a love story, but that probably depends on your definition of love.
Neal Weaver – Backstage

Brimmer Street Theatre Company, Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through Dec. 18. (213) 290-2782.

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  1. ranko falm says:

    funny that LA weekly seems to like the play but they avoid giving it a GO because it lacks political or social commentary. must every play make such a statement???? a question worth asking, no?

  2. I understand your point, Ranko, but I’m not sure I entirely agree with your interpretation of the review.

    Seems like Raden was critiquing the lack of social AND psychological “insight” rather than “commentary” in the production. There is a distinction. “Insight” carries a value judgment of depth in character and revelation of cause and effect, “commentary” seems to lean towards a simple “opinion” of behavior.

    His concluding sentence furthers the idea: “…limits its figurative reach to a cynical contempt for its own characters.”

    Seems like his main quibble is that the play comes off mean-spirited and uncompromising without any desire to understand why the characters act the way they do or what it means in a larger sense to society.

    I haven’t seen the play so I can’t comment on whether it’s a fair review or not.

    But in answer to your main question: “must every play make such a statement”? The answer is obviously “no” – but I would argue that any play that seeks to stand the test of time – and remain universally relevant – does need to have some higher purpose and seek to offer some insight into the why’s and wherefore’s of the human condition.

    “Death of a Salesman” endures because it’s much more than a story about a man and his family – it is that – but more importantly it’s a comment on and an insight into the American Dream itself.

    Appreciate you chiming in, Ranko. Come back again anytime.