Theater Review: 6th @ Penn delivers another must-see

    Nestled in a rather unassuming portion of Hillcrest next to a local dry cleaners, 6th @ Penn Theatre is not a particularly large or striking venue. The stage is slightly smaller than Galbraith 157, with the same painted black walls, floor, ceiling and sparse lighting. Nevertheless, 6th @ Penn Theatre is known for putting on shows that are risky, daring and absolutely wonderful; “”Normal,”” an East Coast show written and performed by Randall White and making its West Coast debut, is no different.

    The interesting thing about the staging of this show is that while there is some telling head gear, in this show, clothes don’t make the man; rather, chairs do. Before the show begins, while the audience begins to file in expectantly to the campy tunes of “”The famous Mr. Ed”” and “”State Fair”” among others playing jovially over the loud speaker. The audience members can clearly discern 11 chairs of varying styles and sizes carefully lined up in single file across the up-stage area. Each of the chairs symbolizes a different character and setting. Some of the chair choices are obvious, such as the spinning bar stool used to characterize a married man picking up an anonymous stranger in a bar. Other uses of chair characterization are more subtle, such as the worn arm chair inhabited by Dean Lee Smith, a Fort Worth redneck who completely and utterly despises Dallas. The old-fashioned and raggedy nature of the chair allows the audience to catch a glimpse of Dean in his own environment and look beyond his seemingly blind rage before we are informed of its origin. Overall, the scarcity of props coupled with the minimalist set design is highly effective. A more subdued background allows the outlandish nature of each character to have full rein over the audience’s attention, with no unnecessary distractions to detract from a stunningly versatile acting performance.

    So what is the play about?

    “”All 11 characters are also themselves dealing with some turning point in their lives — how we all feel disenfranchised from everybody else,”” White said.

    The characters portrayed by White present an incredible amount of diversity in the spaces they inhabit. Cassandra is a lesbian alcoholic making a spoken confession at an AA meeting. Bobby is a child who has just suffered a very adult loss. Rev. Norman W. Blessing is a preacher giving a sermon that he knows will probably be his last. Although it may seem that these characters have nothing in common, they are connected by the same presence: hope cocooned in pain.

    White further said, “”In the largest sense of the word, ‘Normal’ is about the loss and recovery of hope and our roll in recovering our own optimism.””

    Through all the silly faces, shocking personal platitudes and riotous laughter, inducing one-liners, the message shines through. “”Normal”” can be described only as a hilarious heartache. Go see this one.

    “”Normal”” is playing at the 6th @ Penn Theatre at 3704 6th Avenue. Call (877) 946-9997 for information. Tickets bought by phone or at the door are $20. Tickets purchased online range from $15 to $17.50 at http://www.normaltheplay.com.. “”Normal”” is running from Jan. 9 until Feb. 1.

    Normal

    Written and performed by Randall White

    Playing thru Feb. 1

    (877) 946-9997

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