The Lounge Theater, Hollywood
Through Sept. 23
That dreadful little girl, Rhoda Penmark, is back with us in Maxwell Anderson's dreadful little play about her, "Bad Seed." The only way for two dreadfuls to survive onstage is to send them up, and that's exactly what director Danny Schmitz has done in this supremely silly camp version.
Schmitz, who also plays Rhoda in her trademark pigtails and Swiss-dot pinafore, has set his sights squarely on the play's leaden dialogue, soapy characters and sappy sensibility (none of which should be confused with the chilling old film starring Patty McCormack, who was present in the audience on opening night). If the results are mixed, it's not for lack of trying. There's enough clever ideas and visual humor to entertain us most of the time, but the cast is still struggling to find their characters.
Rhoda, you might remember, is a cold-blooded, 8-year-old terror who coolly murders people she takes a dislike to, then lies about it with the aplomb of a veteran politician. Schmitz plays her with a sly, no-nonsense attitude that clearly demonstrates her smarty-pants superiority to everyone else onstage. It's not a particularly humorous performance, but it does set up everyone else to be funny, if they're up to it. What the performance does lack is an exaggerated sense of the evil of which Rhoda is capable; sticking pins in a doll might help.
The rest of the cast is mostly busy overacting, some to good effect, some not. The best is Melissa Peterman as Mr. & Mrs. Daigle, the hapless couple whose child Rhoda has murdered at the class picnic because he, not her, won the penmanship medal. Peterman chews so much scenery that it's a wonder the set doesn't collapse, but she does manage to bring the show to life. Cheryl Hawker is fine as Monica Breedlove, the "oversize analyst" upstairs, and Judy Heneghan has her moments as Leroy, the suspicious handyman who enjoys teasing Rhoda and pays dearly for it.
Less successful is Andrea Hutchman as Christine Penmark, Rhoda's incredibly boring mom who, unfortunately, remains incredibly boring. Cathryn Michon also draws a blank with Miss Fern, Rhoda's teacher. Pete Colburn and Michael Halpin appear as Reginald Tasker and Emory Wages, respectively. Kyle Blitch is the Facilitator who introduces the play, holds up signs and perches on the refrigerator tossing tissues onstage whenever someone changes the playwright's words. By the end of the evening, the stage is littered. McCormack, incidentally, appeared to have a spanking good time.
Presented By Buzzworks Theater Company
Playwright: Maxwell Anderson
Director/set designer: Danny Schmitz
Lighting designer: Derrick McDaniel
Costume designer: Danny Schmitz and cast
Co-producer: Peter Breitmayer
Co-producer: Wayne Wilderson
Rhoda Penmark: Danny Schmitz
Christine Penmark: Andrea Hutchman
Mr. & Mrs. Daigle: Melissa Peterman
Monica Breedlove: Cheryl Hawker
Leroy: Judy Heneghan
Miss Fern: Cathryn Michon
Reginald Tasker: Pete Colburn
Emory Wages: Michael Halpin
Facilitator: Kyle Blitch
Kenneth Penmark: Peter Staloch