Twilight Zone meets Theater Of The Absurd in D Deb Debbie Deborah, Jerry Lieblich’s trippy journey to a land where no one, not even the title character, is who they seem, and though it’s anyone’s guess what Lieblich is getting at throughout most of his play’s seventy-five minutes, confusion hardly matters till a sudden eleventh-hour try for profundity takes Quadruple D from entertaining to exasperating.
Things certainly start out straightforward enough, with 20something aspiring painter Deb (Jenny Soo) buzzing up a friend after a bit of intercom chitchat only to discover upon opening the door that her visitor wasn’t who she thought it was at all.
Suddenly finding herself wallet, cell phone, and computer-free, our perplexed heroine (who’s never called anything but Deb by the way), recounts her sad tale of urban burglary to Karl (Greg Nussen), her handsome, concerned boyfriend before wondering aloud if the people around her, robber included, might be nothing more than creations of her imagination. Heck, maybe even Deb herself isn’t real.
Then, in a twist that would have done Rod Serling proud, who should reenter Deb’s living room but a man looking nothing at all like the Karl with whom we’ve spent the last few minutes?
Now if this were a daytime soap, Deb’s boyfriend’s reappearance would be accompanied by an off-screen voice announcing, “The role of Karl is now being played by Travis York,” and Deb would go on as if (say for instance) Jack Black hadn’t just taken over the role previously portrayed by Matt Damon.
D Deb Debbie Deborah’s Deb does at least appear momentarily mystified by the body-switch, but before long she’s chatting with New Karl about her upcoming job with eccentric superstar-artist Mark and, on a sadder note, about Karl’s ailing, hospitalized mother.
Imagine Deb’s confusion when who should turn out to be her employer but a man who looks exactly like Karl 2.0, though not for long because soon he’s a ringer for Karl 1.0, and when later on office manager Julia arrives, it’s a sure bet that she’s not going to look like Alina Phelan for long.
All of this body-swapping (and even gender-switching) is nothing if not entertaining, and culminates in a gallery-opening sequence that has five actors (Kerr Lordygan has joined the free-for-all by now) lobbing a dozen or more characters back and forth between them in lickety-split succession.
Heck, even a glance in the mirror may soon cause Deb to do a double take or two.
Unfortunately, about ten minutes away from curtain calls, D Deb Debbie Deborah suddenly decides to get serious and meaningful and presumably profound … and it’s goodbye delight, hello bewilderment. (Though the last two remaining characters appear deeply moved by what they’ve been though, I can’t help wondering if even the actors playing them can do more than guess at Lieblich’s intent.)
That’s not to say that the fivesome aren’t all having one terrific time getting to play a year’s worth of characters in well under an hour and a half. Heck, I was having a terrific time myself most of the way through, and Theatre Of NOTE has cast D Deb Debbie Deborah’s West Coast Premiere with an absolutely terrific ensemble of five under Doug Oliphant’s more than capable direction.
The mysterious and kooky way scenic Joe Holbrook’s set morphs from locale to locale would do The Addams Family’s Thing proud, and Eb Madry lights it to dramatic effect. Mark McLain Wilson’s sound design is topnotch too. As for Amanda Maciel Antunes’s costumes, while logic might dictate that characters should dress the same regardless of who is playing them, it’s easy to see how budget and script challenges might have made that a no-can-do.
D Deb Debbie Deborah is produced for NOTE by York. Soo and Travis Moscinski are associate producers. Julie Ouellette is assistant director and Bethany Lizarraga is assistant scenic designer.
Liesel Hansen, Debbie Jaffe, Sierra Marcks, Moscinski, and Phil Ward make up D Deb Debbie Deborah’s alternate cast.
Opening-night audiences, filled as they normally are with friends and supporters, are notorious for whooping and hollering when applause would ordinarily suffice. That it was the latter reaction that greeted first-night curtain calls suggests that I may not have been alone in wondering what on earth D Deb Debbie Deborah was supposed to mean.
Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga, Hollywood.
August 11, 2106
Photos: Troy Blendell