Review by Mike “Buzz” Buzzelli, ‘Burgh Vivant.
A luxurious beach house becomes a battleground in Molly Smith Metzler’s “Elemeno Pea.” When Devon (Ariel Woodiwos) comes to visit her sister, Simone (Robin Abramson) at the aforementioned beach house on Martha’s Vineyard, the day after Labor Day, they chip away at the veneer, and we’re not talking about the original wainscoting.
Simone is enthusiastically grateful to her boss Michaela (Kimberly Parker Green) for lending her the home, but Devon is already suspicious of Michaela’s largess. When Simone dresses down a disgruntled handyman Hos-B (Tony Chiroldes), Devon sees that her sister has adopted the worst traits of her elitist employer. Simone then informs Devon that she is dating a 1 Percenter named Ethan (Anthony Comis). It’s almost more than Devon can bear. She watches her sister submerge herself into the lifestyles of the rich and affluent, unaware that she isn’t really one of them. Simone is secretly drowning at that glorious beach house and Devon doesn’t know how to save her.
Suddenly, Michaela’s life explodes and she runs to her assistant for help, ruining the sister’s weekend. Boy, does she ruin things! “Elemeno Pea” is a comedy of Schadenfreude, most of the humor comes from the laughing at the misfortune of the characters. There’s plenty of misfortune and, therefore, plenty of laughs. There’s also a cathartic moment when Hos-B sticks it to the “Man” or “Woman” in this case.
Michaela appears to be the biggest, richest villain this side of Cruella De Vil, but she has a soft, vulnerable center. Parker Green gives her the requisite nuanced performance the character deserves. It’s a blast watching her smack down Devon with backhanded compliments.
Though Devon quickly gets the upper hand. Woodiwiss is particularly adept at delivering sarcastic bon mots.
Abramson shines. The woman has charisma oozing from every pore. She’s even able to pull off a Shamrock green and Pepto pink ensemble. Costume Designer Robert C. T. Steele gets a good deal of jokes in with the wardrobe, particularly Ethan’s “Saved by the Bell: Bayside goes to the Beach” outfit.
This is mostly the women’s show. Comis and Chiroldes have minor roles, but they handle them with flair. Listen to Chiroldes carefully. Bilingual audience members are in for a special treat.
There is sort of Pop Culture Twitter-speak poetry to Metzler’s words, and Director Tracy Brigden does a superb job with them.
“Elemeno Pea” have a superior cast, but the real star of this show is the set. Scenic Designer Tony Ferrieri steals the show with the most beautiful beach house in Pittsburgh (probably the only beach house in Pittsburgh). An elegant pad with a wall of windows overlooking a turquoise sea and azure sky. After the show, many audience members remarked, “I want to live in that house.” It’s a true testament to Ferrieri’s talent.
This Cape Cod comedy is the perfect thing to break Pittsburgh free of the winter blues. You don’t even have to take a ferry to get there (just hop on the 48 Arlington/South Side).
(“Elemeno Pea” runs through March 22 at the City Theater, 1300 Bingham Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15203)