“The Pain and the Itch” gets off to a riveting start, filled with macabre laughter and a barrage of inter personal warfare between some extremely diverse family members. Shallow and vain plastic surgeon Cash a staunch Republican portrayed by Trent Dawson is quickly pitched in verbal battle against his brother Clay played by Eric Hunicutt and Clay’s wife Kelly portrayed by Beverly Hynds, both of whom are rather stereotypical liberals. And then there is April Adams who is absolutely sensational in her role as the gloriously socialist grandma Carol. Sprinkle in some spice with the lovely Beth Triffon as Kalina the stunning if slightly air headed wife from some nondescript Eastern European country. Add a small and very active child Kayla as played by 7 year old Ava Bianchi and finally add the mystery man Mr. Hadid played eloquently by Joe Holt and you get just the right mix for a Thanksgiving Day from hell.
Act one is truly fun, with plenty to laugh at and the ever present mystery of Mr. Hadid. But frankly I found act two more than a bit rough. It starts quite dark and evolves to a better place. But throughout the show and especially in act two it gets more than just a little raunchy. The entire play is splattered with abundant “F” bombs. I am very far from being a prude but I found that mildly disturbing given the inclusion of a 7 year old actress. But a reference to a 16 porn star and the showing of actual porn video was I felt not only in poor taste but also utterly unnecessary to the story. It was therefore in my view simply gratuitous.
But the entire point to the presence of Mr. Hadid is revealed at the end of act two and it does tend to weave the story together giving it substance and purpose. It is a bit farfetched but then it is theatre and one is often required to suspend disbelief to fully enjoy many if not most theatrical presentations.
“The Pain and the Itch” comes from Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Bruce Norris. While not in my mind perfect it does contain plenty of humor, abundant human insight and an intriguing plot. And yes some offensive, in my view, material. It is at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90046. Show times are 8:00 PM Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 7:00 PM on Sundays. It runs now through December 1, 2013. Ticket prices are $25 for general admission and $15 for students with valid ID. Further information and reservations are available on line at: by calling 323-960-5774 or on line at: www.plays411.com/pain.