Michael Miller has lived with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since the age of seven.  He always arranges his shoes “just so” before going to bed, moving them from this position to that one and back again, and then to another, until he is satisfied.  He locks his apartment from the outside even when his girlfriend is still inside, even when she has just told him not to. Even worse are his obsessions, most particularly his obsession with blood.  Michael once found a small stain on a shirt and soon became convinced that it was AIDS infected blood.  The discovery of a band-aid inside a load of laundry washed at a public laundromat sends him into a frenzy, disinfecting everything the clothes may have touched.

Plastic Crystal is actor/playwright/producer Jason Greenfield’s sometimes painful yet often unexpectedly funny look at Michael’s life, and the way his OCD has affected, and alienated, those around him.
In an opening monolog, Michael tells us he knows it’s ridiculous, but he just can’t stop his obsessive-compulsive behavior.  OCD is, for him, “self-inflicted torture,” a prison he cannot break out of. 
Making matters worse is “Daddy Dearest,” a truly monstrous father whose browbeating and belittling has reached the point of bullying, especially in the year since Michael’s mother’s death. Edward Miller blames Michael whenever something goes wrong in the family textile business, all the while insisting that everything he does is for Michael’s own good, in order to be able to leave the company to Michael on his retirement.  “Stop with the fucking excuses,” screams Dad, “because no one fucking cares!”
Fiancée Sara has had enough of Michael’s obsessive behavior. His refusal to have sex with Sara without a condom (she’s on the pill and they’ve both tested negative for HIV) is the proverbial straw, and Sara is out of Michael’s life, leaving him vulnerable to the allure of a beautiful, unhappy woman.
Rachel has had enough of her marriage to Eric. Since the loss of their baby six months ago, Eric has spurned all of Rachel’s sexual advances.  That he also happens to be a male chauvinist doesn’t help matters.  When husband arrives three hours late for a promised dinner together and then has the gall to complain about wife’s pricey haircut (he can’t believe she spent $200 “on protein”), Rachel finally tells him she wants out. Though Eric protests that “there’s nothing wrong with our marriage. We love each other and that’s all that counts,” Rachel is out the door.
A chance meeting at a bar is all that Michael and Rachel need to fall into bed together, and this time Michael does indeed agree not to wear a condom.  Complications ensue.

Plastic Crystal represents the full-length directorial debut of actress Abby Craden, whose name L.A. theater aficionados will recognize from her numerous starring roles at A Noise Within including Cherie in Bus Stop and Charlotte in this spring’s Don Juan.  Craden proves herself equally talented as a director, bringing out the best in her cast of five.
Greenfield the actor does outstanding work as Michael in a performance that is agonizingly real, and electric in its spontaneity. Handsome in a grown-up Charlie Brown way, Greenfield exhibits a charming light touch in a flirtatious scene with Courtney DeCosky as Rachel.  In scenes opposite Steven Robert Wollenberg as his father, it is quite painful to watch Greenfield shrink before this man who stands a head shorter than he.
DeCosky, Wollenberg, Lynette Coll as Sara, and Stephen Rider as Eric all provide fine support for Greenfield, with a special nod to Wollenberg, who is truly scary as the dad from hell.
Yelena Babiskaya has designed a mobile set (sofa, armchair, kitchen table, double bed) whose movable screens and door allow relatively swift scene changes (see caveat below).  Josh Coellar deserves highest marks for his lighting and sound design, the latter being particularly fine, incorporating well timed and chosen sound effects and a particularly gorgeous musical underscoring for scene changes, of which there are many.  Sarah LeFeber’s costumes are perfectly fine.
Greenfield’s script is compelling and original, educates us about OCD, and makes us care about all of his characters, even dear old dad in a poignant graveside scene. It does come across, however, more like a staged screenplay than a work written expressly for theater. I’ve always felt that the best plays (think Arthur Miller) are those which have the fewest scene changes. The longer we spend uninterrupted with characters, the more involved we become with them.  Plastic Crystal has many short scenes which end just as we are becoming interested and though set changes are executed as quickly as possible by the cast (and there is that beautiful musical underscoring), they can’t help but slow things down, and in one notable instance, two actors who have just ended a dramatic, teary scene, have to break character and not only leave the stage but move the furniture with them.
If Greenfield can find a way to combine/extend scenes, Plastic Crystal will achieve its full potential to engross and move an audience.  As it is, it is a highly promising piece of writing, and a vehicle which affords its excellent cast a quintet of complex roles performed with believability and power.

Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
July 30, 2008

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