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Lottie the knockout

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs — raw realism

A play whose framework is used to explore sexual problems, economic depression, family violence, anti-Semitism, and class prejudice is now the current production at the Scripps Ranch Theatre.

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

William Inge’s 1957 play is probably an examination of his own childhood memories. The drama, set in Oklahoma in 1923, centers on Rubin Flood, a recently unemployed harness salesman. He must deal with his wife, Cora, who shuns intimacy, with his shy daughter who prepares for her first dance, and with his pre-teen son, who runs to his mother instead of dealing with bullies.

Susan Stratton and Laura Bohlin

This wonderfully written theater piece takes two marriages apart — one seemingly good on the surface and one bad. Director Ted Leib’s great sensitivity allows the play do do what it does best, which is to take a look at the conflicts, both spoken and unspoken, that can tear human relationships apart. His production is superb, with every period and character detail honed to perfection.

The set, by Bob Shuttleworth, is highly believable of a small town home of the early 1920s on the Oklahoma plains. It works on its own simple terms without relying on clever innovations or modern design techniques.

This mounting of Inge’s intense drama is greatly enhanced by a cast that truly works in ensemble fashion, even though many of the scenes are just between two people. Everyone plays with a sense of raw realism that captures attention and rivets throughout.

Alex Guzman, as Rubin Flood, is dynamic and forceful; he shows his conflicting emotions in a bold, graphic light.

Laura Bohlin, as Cora, his wife, is marvelous in her many-layered portrayal of a woman trapped by circumstances, but who desperately wants to be a good wife and mother.

Bohlin’s character seems to hold the play together and move it forward. Hers is a quiet portrayal, but it tears at your heart with precision.

As the young son and the troubled teenage daughter, Ryan Singer and Gabi Leibowitz are perfectly cast and bring a refreshing realism to roles you don’t often see with performers of these ages.

Fine support is given by Janey Hurley as the energetic Flirt, Fred Harlow as a bored husband, Gabe Krut as another troubled youth, and Alex Apodaca, as a tipsy teen.

But the one actor who gives a knockout performance that holds you spellbound is Susan Stratton as the loud and boisterous Lottie, Cora’s sister. Her frustrations with her marriage and her station in life are pathetically highlighted in her highly nuanced portrayal. Also, her genuine affection for her sister is poignant and touching.

This performance will stay in your mind for a long time.

Inge, whose portraits of small-town life and settings planted in the American heartland have earned him the unofficial title of “Playwright of the Midwest,” is extremely well-represented here.

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A play whose framework is used to explore sexual problems, economic depression, family violence, anti-Semitism, and class prejudice is now the current production at the Scripps Ranch Theatre.

The Dark at the Top of the Stairs

William Inge’s 1957 play is probably an examination of his own childhood memories. The drama, set in Oklahoma in 1923, centers on Rubin Flood, a recently unemployed harness salesman. He must deal with his wife, Cora, who shuns intimacy, with his shy daughter who prepares for her first dance, and with his pre-teen son, who runs to his mother instead of dealing with bullies.

Susan Stratton and Laura Bohlin

This wonderfully written theater piece takes two marriages apart — one seemingly good on the surface and one bad. Director Ted Leib’s great sensitivity allows the play do do what it does best, which is to take a look at the conflicts, both spoken and unspoken, that can tear human relationships apart. His production is superb, with every period and character detail honed to perfection.

The set, by Bob Shuttleworth, is highly believable of a small town home of the early 1920s on the Oklahoma plains. It works on its own simple terms without relying on clever innovations or modern design techniques.

This mounting of Inge’s intense drama is greatly enhanced by a cast that truly works in ensemble fashion, even though many of the scenes are just between two people. Everyone plays with a sense of raw realism that captures attention and rivets throughout.

Alex Guzman, as Rubin Flood, is dynamic and forceful; he shows his conflicting emotions in a bold, graphic light.

Laura Bohlin, as Cora, his wife, is marvelous in her many-layered portrayal of a woman trapped by circumstances, but who desperately wants to be a good wife and mother.

Bohlin’s character seems to hold the play together and move it forward. Hers is a quiet portrayal, but it tears at your heart with precision.

As the young son and the troubled teenage daughter, Ryan Singer and Gabi Leibowitz are perfectly cast and bring a refreshing realism to roles you don’t often see with performers of these ages.

Fine support is given by Janey Hurley as the energetic Flirt, Fred Harlow as a bored husband, Gabe Krut as another troubled youth, and Alex Apodaca, as a tipsy teen.

But the one actor who gives a knockout performance that holds you spellbound is Susan Stratton as the loud and boisterous Lottie, Cora’s sister. Her frustrations with her marriage and her station in life are pathetically highlighted in her highly nuanced portrayal. Also, her genuine affection for her sister is poignant and touching.

This performance will stay in your mind for a long time.

Inge, whose portraits of small-town life and settings planted in the American heartland have earned him the unofficial title of “Playwright of the Midwest,” is extremely well-represented here.

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