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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Those who self-destruct and those who try to help... Pretty Goblins at Workshop West...

I took in Pretty Goblins by Beth Graham presented by Workshop West Playwrights Theatre last night. It tells the tale of sisters, fraternal twins, Lizzie (Miranda Allen) and Laura (Nadien Chu), and their battle through life. One twin is wilder and self-destructive and an addict who cycles in and out of functional and dysfunctional existence. The other, calmer and more rational, but equally tortured as she is unable to 'save' her sister time and time again. It's told in flashback, and episodes, so we see how these two incredibly close children with the same parentage and opportunity can veer into vastly different adult lives. It's hard to leave the play without a discussion of nature vs. nurture as there are contributing factors from both. It's also hard not to leave the play with an incredible amount of empathy for those who have a self-destructive loved one in their lives. The struggle to support, and try to help after being pushed to the breaking point time and time again is heartbreaking.

This production has all the right components. It is skillfully and sensitively directed by Brian Dooley whose direction never confuses us as to where and when we are and which handles the gruesome parts honestly but with incredible respect for the script, actors and audience (there is one section that is particularly tough). The performances of Allen and Chu are layered and believable even as they zig-zag from past to past to present, and each has an evolution which feels inevitable but you wish wouldn't have to happen. Interestingly, I think that it's easy to imagine these actors in the other role, underscoring the nature vs. nurture discussion. The world that production designer Megan Koshka has created is both beautiful and ugly - depending on what it needs to be - a squalid room, a child's bedroom, a wedding reception...

Pretty Goblins runs to April 29 at the Backstage Theatre. Tickets can be purchased here.

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