British playwrite [Sir] Alan Ackbourn mostly is known for his many comedy of manners plays, but surprisingly, he’s written a drama or three, as well as quite a suspenseful thriller titled Snake in the Grass, the first preview of which I attended last night (the 29th) at the Matrix Theatre (7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles 90046). It is also the first American production of the Ackbourn script.
“Actual performances” begin April 4th and (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays with a matinee on Sundays), run through May 4th (except for the 3pm Sunday matinees, the performances begin at 8pm). The rest of the previews are tonight the 30th, and April 2nd and 3rd. Normally one would say “curtain” time, but as this is a very intimate venue with a thrust stage, there is no curtain.
Set in the back garden of the Chester estate, at the small “summer house” (more like a square, window-pane enclosed gazebo), near the ominous tennis court (containing some nasty childhood memories), two sisters reunite for the first time in 35 years, Annibel (Pamela Salem) and Miriam (Claire Jacobs), find themselves being threatened with blackmail by the sisters’ late father’s nurse, Alice Moody (Nicola Bertram).
Due to their physically and verbally abusive father, older sister Annabel fled the family when Miriam was only nine, so while the two technically are estranged, they have maintained contact through the years through substantial correspondance, though even then sometimes details often may have been overlooked.
The play still retains much of Ackbourn’s bone-dry wit, all the funnier as it stands out against an increasingly creepy storyline. Meanwhile, the dark to jet-black humour is balanced with the snowballing suspense. More than once, gooseflesh raced from my ankles to my neck within seconds.
The three actresses work very well with each other, and the first with an audience (and an aspect or two that has been addressed for polishing). I highly suggest and recommend, for a great evening of theatre, to see Snake in the Grass.
After the performance, along with a few others from the theatre, Pamela took her co-stars, the show’s award-winning director Mark Roseblatt and me to the next door restaurant/bar. Mark and I discussed not only the show (and the few [nearly negligible] hiccoughs I noticed), how Pamela and I met and became friends, but other entertainments of mutual interest (as well as his enjoying hiking as much as I). Mark is about to scoot to New York to direct a staged reading for a new show; Pamela described the young director as an up and coming star for which actors have no problem going the extra mile. Pamela was also kind enough to give me a lift home.
Information on the show, its exact dates and times, plus purchasing tickets online can be found here.