Written by Melissa Jane Osborne and directed by Michelle Bossy, “Smile” is set in 1992, the “Year of the Woman,” a detail that sets the tone of the times.
By Carol Edger Germain
The play begins by introducing us to 17-year-old Rachel Olivera (Isabella Feliciana), who has transferred to a school more capable of providing the necessary education and opportunity for her to work toward her goal of college and hopefully a scholarship. That is her focus, and she is OK with keeping her blinders on and taking or leaving any social connections or opportunities that come her way with her new schoolmates. Speaking from experience, I can relate to her less-than-jovial response to being told to “smile.” She is not open to pretending to joke along with the boys or just ignoring them, especially when they take it a bit further with comments about, and stares at, her body. She finally puts a semi-violent end to the “conversation” by punching a couple of them, doing some damage worthy of landing her in the office of the school’s guidance counselor, Helen (Andria Kozica). There is an immediate connection between the women, but we don’t really get deeply into Rachel’s feelings about the school incident and Helen’s personal drama until later in the play.
Meanwhile, Helen decides to help Rachel with cleaning up her record so she won’t lose her scholarship. Helen’s effort becomes a bit excessive and leads to a blow-up with her endearingly patient (and funny) husband Matt (played charmingly by John Lavelle), but we are teased along a bit before we get the details. Another thread simultaneously woven into the story is Rachel’s emotionally uncertain developing connection with Joey (Alex Fox), a teenage neighbor who shows interest in her but rudely flakes after considering the rumors surrounding Rachel’s altercation at school. It was unclear where these various storylines were going, and how or if they related,but the play held my interest because the threads weren’t complicated. In the second half (or maybe the final third) of the story, the action went from 0 to 90, the voices got louder, the emotions got spilled, the truths of various characters exploded and Rachel’s final focus and dilemma became clear. Even though it could be tightened up in some spots, and maybe fleshed out in others, it was very much worth watching because all of the acting and directing is well done and we are left with something to think about.
Smile Written by Melissa Jane Osborne Directed by Michelle Bossy Starring Isabella Feliciana, Ronit Kathuria, Andria Kozica, John Lavelle Presented by IAMA Theatre Company, Stefanie Black, artistic director Atwater Village Theatre 3269 Casitas Ave Los Angeles, CA 90039 Limited free parking in the ATX lot one block south of the theater Also, free street parking Fridays at 8:00 pm: Dec. 2; (dark Nov. 25) Saturdays at 8:00 pm: Nov. 26; Dec. 3 Sundays at 3:00 pm: Nov. 27; Dec. 4 Mondays at 8:00 pm: Nov. 28; Dec. 5 Tickets: Call 323-380-8843 or go to iamatheatre.com
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