LA Review: 'Paris' & 'The Solvit Kids'

at Ruskin Group Theatre

Reviewed by David C. Nichols

April 17, 2012


Photo by Eli Russell Linnetz
The trope that talent skips a generation is given the lie by the engaging, albeit still-forming ability evident in this duo of one-acts by writer-actor Clara Mamet, daughter of celebrated playwright David Mamet. That these very disparate plays—a wildly inventive Hollywood satire and a thoughtful colloquy between father and daughter—originate from a 17-year-old is remarkable in itself, but there’s a sagely original voice at work here.

“The Solvit Kids,” co-written with Jack Quaid (also the scion of a renowned parent), is the satire, opening the program to riotous effect. Mamet’s premise concerns two former child stars famed for a series of films based on a phenomenally successful children’s book franchise. Today, though, Annie (Mamet, deliciously deadpan) and Bradley (Sol Mason, a frenetic hoot) are having issues. The author of the “Solvit Kids” books has died, leaving to both actors the rights to the previous books, his final-entry manuscript, and, critically, his private memoirs to both actors. It’s the night before the press conference announcing the publication and movie version of the last novel, with Annie, Bradley, and the author’s ashes awaiting the media blitz in a ritzy hotel.

All well and good, except that Bradley, whose delusions are as vast as his Tinseltown vacuity, has misread certain post-mortem instructions. This becomes clear when acerbic Annie begins reading the supposed final book and it’s the memoirs, which are beyond scandalous. Bradley burned the wrong tome, and the resulting scramble to write an entire novel in one night reveals more than one fissure in the stars’ façades.



Mamet displays an ability to embed subtext and wring maximum effect from repetition. The premise is fresh, and both actors play it to the hilt. Their hilarious contrast is given its full farcical measure by director Paul Sand, who keeps sitcom at bay and the rising action tickling yet plausible. If ever a one-act play deserved expansion into a screenplay, this acrid charmer is it.

Sand brings an entirely different sensibility to “Paris,” the father-daughter piece. Set in a kitchen during a late-night hash session, this study of a wise-beyond-her-age daughter (Mamet) and her tree-the-apple-fell-from father (John Pirruccello, proficiently paternal) is pitched toward unsentimental elegy. Mother, it seems, has taken off some time ago, and the enigmatic dialogue conceals a reservoir of hurt beneath mutual appreciation.

It’s not a bad piece, and both actors are invested in the inner stakes, but it does feel inchoate, more a sincerely oblique sketch than a developed narrative. Nor does the resourceful but bare-bones staging completely escape the whiff of showcase. But, like the hysterical opener, “Paris” is the work of a writer entirely deserving of exposure. I can hardly wait to see what Clara Mamet comes up with next.

Presented by and at Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Road, Santa Monica. April 13 – May 19. Fri. and Sat., 8 p.m. (310) 397-3244 or www.ruskingrouptheatre.com.
 

 
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