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Lost Girls: Generational Saga With Plot Twists

Lost Girls

Jonathan Lipnicki and Anna Teoni DiGiovanni (Photo: John Flynn)

John Pollono’s witty, poignant one-acter Lost Girls is an extremely realistic slice of life, from the actors’ wicked New England (where the playwright hails from) accents to how this drama shows, among other things, that a continuum of character “flaws” can be passed down from one generation to another. In this case, it’s like-grandmother-like-mother-(maybe?)-like- granddaughter/daughter, as unwed mothers beget unwed mothers with unwanted, unplanned for pregnancies. Pollono’s slice of working class life is somewhat reminiscent of those great British “kitchen sink dramas” with angry young man proletarian protagonists, such as in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. Except one could say that, as its title suggests, Lost Girls features angry young women instead.

lost girls

Jennifer Pollono and Joshua Bittton.

Thirty-something Maggie (Jennifer Pollono) awakes one blustery Derry, New Hampshire morning to find her daughter missing -- and along with her, Maggie’s means of transportation. Minus her Honda during the snowstorm Maggie is unable to get to her job at a store. The type of nine-to-five Maggie does is never specifically defined, but the fact that this blue collar position is what stands between survival and her household being plunged into poverty is an astute observation of the reality of daily life for millions of hard pressed Americans.

The well-being of Maggie’s mother, the 50-ish out-of-work Linda (Peggy Dunne -- who co-starred in West Coast Jewish Theatre’s 2011 revival of Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass -- alternates in the role with Ann Bronston), who is dependent on some sort of (presumably) government checks to survive, is also at stake if Maggie loses her job. But the main drama revolves around Maggie’s missing daughter, the third angry young woman, who may have run away from home, been abducted, killed in a car crash or who-knows-what?

lost girls

Kristen Kollender, Joshua Bitten, and Peggy Dunne

Desperate, Maggie turns to her ex-hubby, Lou (Joshua Bitton, who has many stage and big/little screen credits, including as Sgt. J.P. Morgan in the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks 2010 HBO mini-series The Pacific), a former policeman who now works for the state troopers. Lou uses his law enforcement connections to search for their missing daughter and in the process brings his new wife to Maggie’s home during much of the hunt for the vanished teenager.

The pretty, blonde, pert Penny (Kirsten Kollander, who appeared in The Accomplices, a great drama about American Jews racing to save European Jewry from extermination during the Holocaust presented in 2009 at the Odyssey Theatre) may not exactly be a trophy wife, but Lou’s latest is an upgrade from Maggie in the looks and class departments -- which the ex knows and resents. This inevitably sets off sparks and Kollander does an expert acting job an attractive woman who is discriminated against because she has committed the “crime” of being desirable, and must prove that she’s more than just a pretty face from a higher income bracket. Confronted by Maggie’s biting wit, Penny counters: “I don’t really do sarcasm.”

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lost girls

Anna Theoni DiGiovanni and Jonathgan Lupnicki

The scenes with the grownups are intercut with vignettes of two teens on the run holed up in a motel, as they are ostensibly en route to the young lady’s (Anna Theoni DiGiovanni, a 2012 USC grad School of Dramatic Arts grad making her welcome theatrical debut here) older lover (can you say “daddy issues”?) in Florida, where she is being driven to by a male classmate (Jonathan Lipnicki, whose credits include the Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire).

Your plot spoiler adverse critic won’t ruin the surprises for you (unlike KPCC’s Film Blab reviewers, whose latest revelations are which stars get killed in The Family, thereby sparing moviegoers the price of tickets to that Robert De Niro/Michelle Pfeiffer release -- well done, you are truly the Edward Snowdens of movie reviewing!). Suffice it to say that while Pollono’s drama unspools, it has the air of a naturalistic work for the thee-a-tuh. In fact, in terms of structure Lost Girls is more cinematic and theatrical in a couple of ways.

One reason why is the rapid scenic transitions from the motel room to Maggie’s home and back and forth, thanks to the graceful, clever sets of Scenic Designer David Mauer, plus some yeoman (and yo! woman) actor/ stagehand moves faster than a speeding bullet by cast members. There is also a good use of rock songs, such as the Rolling Stones’ ode to revolt, “Street Fightin’ Man,” which literally helps set the stage for this proletarian drama.

Rogue Machine’s Artistic Director John Perrin Flynn flies again in another hit by this agile theatre company that is generating buzz across L.A.’s legit stage scene, fresh from its long extended (and well-deservedly so) One Night in Miami triumph. Flynn deftly directs the taut ensemble acting and tight mise-en-scène of a flawless cast who never miss a beat in convincing auds of the believability of their characters and situations. Pollono’s dialogue is often crisp, cutting, clever and comical -- sperm, for instance, is referred to as “baby batter” -- and always effectively delivered. Enhancing the play’s realism are frequent vulgarities, partial nudity and (presumably) simulated sex acts. But hey -- that’s real life.

The finale will have many theatergoers scratching their noggins as they realize that all is not as it seems as seen, and that the unpredictable dramatist had a few clever tricks up his cinematic sleeve, making for an extremely satisfying artistic experience. J.M. Barrie may have had Peter Pan’s Lost Boys but John Pollono has his Lost Girls. And remember: The “safe word” is “McSorley’s!”

Ed Rampell

Lost Girls plays on Mondays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 p.m. through Nov. 4 (dark Sept, 23, Oct. 21) at Rogue Machine Theatre, 5041 Pico Blvd., L.A., CA 90019. For info: 855.585.5185; www.roguemachinetheatre.com.

Ed Rampell

Thursday, 19 September 2013