LETTERS FROM A NUT BY TED L. NANCY

Despite its inventive multimedia staging and Beth Kennedy’s kaleidoscopic supporting turn, the Geffen Playhouse’s wacky, wispy Letters From A Nut By Ted L. Nancy, even at a mere sixty-eight minutes, runs about half-an-hour too long, and with full-price tickets going for as much as $85 a pop, anyone minus money/time to burn would do better to order a copy of Nancy’s book from Amazon where used copies start at fifteen cents.

Make no mistake. “Ted L. Nancy” is a funny guy, and the prank letters the real-life Barry Marder has spent the last few decades mailing out to unsuspecting recipients round the world are pretty darned hilarious.

He wrote Nordstrom Glendale to purchase a store mannequin that he claimed bore an uncanny resemblance to his recently deceased neighbor in order to help the dead man’s family “with the grieving.”

He wrote a stadium seating company for advice regarding the proper angle at which to face fellow audience members when entering and exiting a row, “butt to them or crotch to them.”

He wrote the Consulate General of India to find out if the Taj Mahal was indeed slated to be remodeled into a Staples Office Supply store.

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly since it was part of their job descriptions), the recipients of Ted’s letters wrote back, for the most part taking his missives as serious inquiries deserving serious responses.

Nordstrom’s apologetic reply was that company policy forbade the sale of display materials “while still in use.” The stadium seating company suggested that Ted arrive early enough to take his seat in an empty row and “wait until everyone else is gone before exiting.” The Indian Consulate requested to know the source of Ted’s information in order to “clarify the matter.”

And so on, and so forth, for the next hour and change.

Since the letters read and responses given in Letters From A Nut By Ted L. Nancy script can be found in published form in “Letters From A Nut,” “More Letters From A Nut, and “All New Letters From A Nut,” all of which purchased together at full price add up to about a third of an $85-dollar ticket, what sets Letters From A Nut By Ted L. Nancy The Play apart is its presentation, and to director Pierre Balloón’s credit, considerable effort has been made to give audiences a “theatrical event,” however inconsequential.

Nancy’s original letters and their very official replies are projected by by Carolla Digital along with appropriate photos and cartoons (the latter drawn by illustrator Alan Marder), and a Jimmy Kimmel-ready live-action video sequence has supermarket shoppers sampling homemade treats purportedly confectioned from food (and non-food) bits found beneath sofa cushions. (Yum!)

Best of all, Kennedy’s assorted “Service Representatives” respond to each of Nancy’s letters in a quite possibly record number of wigs and accents as only the Troubadour Theater Company gem can do.

Nancy himself, on the other hand, does little more than read aloud, that is when he’s not launching into occasional standup bits that seem mostly intended to extend Letters From A Nut By Ted L. Nancy’s running time to a more saleable length, and the same can probably be said for Sam Kwasman’s otherwise inexplicable interruptions in full Pagliacci makeup and gear.

Scenic designer Daniel Ionazzi’s smart-looking raised set frames the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater stage with Nancy’s desk on one side and Kennedy’s office cubicle on the other, and Ionazzi lights both with flair.

Julie Ann Renfro is production stage manager. Phyllis Murphy is dramaturg. Casting is by Phyllis Schuringa, CSA.

I’m guessing that Jerry Seinfeld’s producer credit had a good deal to do with the Geffen’s programming the decidedly minor Letters From A Nut By Ted L. Nancy on the same stage as this past season’s superb The Model Apartment, The Lion, and Actually.

If you see only one show at the Geffen this month, let it be Ginnifer Goodwin and Allen Leech in Constellations. As for Letters From A Nut By Ted L. Nancy, buy the book.

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Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles. Through July 30. Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8:00. Saturdays at 3:00 and 8:00. Sundays at 2:00. Reservations: 310 208-5454
www.geffenplayhouse.com

–Steven Stanley
June 29, 2017
Photos: Chris Whitaker

 

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