Marja Lewis Ryan's 'Dysnomia's' Got Lesbians and a Lot of Heart at LA's Lounge Theater
As a fan of Marja Lewis-Ryan's film The Four-Faced Liar I didn't think she could top herself, but she in fact has done just that with her new play Dysnomia now playing at Los Angeles’ Lounge Theater.
Ryan’s Dysnomia (the word for when you don’t have the word), directed by theater veteran Anthony Frisina, is just the opposite of much of the often stuffy, boring and just downright bad theater I’ve experience in L.A. Throughout Dysnomia I laughed, I cried, I touched my heart with my hand a few times… It's flat-out amazing.
On the car ride over to the theater a friend made the blanketed, if not a bit tunnel-visioned, statement that “all plays suck.” “What will you write? (if it sucked)” she asked. Two scenes into Dysnomia that same friend leaned over and whispered in my ear, "What aren't you going to write? This is amazing." During the curtain call while giving Ryan the accolades she clearly deserved that same friend gave a final quote about the transformative nature of Dysnomia. "This seriously changed the way I look at plays -- so good."
Dysnomia tells the story of Mary (Heidi Sulzman), a middle-aged suburban housewife and mom of two in a thankless marriage, who realizes she’s gay after meeting a wonderfully witty lesbian Sam (Marja-Lewis Ryan) who has a penchant for dispensing sound words of wisdom. Mary eventually decides she must come out to her family and end her marriage.
The performances are razor sharp from Ryan's Sam all the way down to the young and painfully talented Isabella Palmieri who plays the youngest daughter Jodi. While the production teems with stellar performances the two undisputed standouts are Sulzman and Jessie Warner, who plays Mary's friend.
Sulzman’s performance shines with honesty and believability as the housewife discovering her true self via the help of a college-aged lesbian. As Mary she exudes a down-to-earth quality that cannot be learned and she puts forth such relatability that women who’ve struggled with sexual identity must surely identify with the character.
Warner’s Carol, on the other hand, is Mary’s wine-devouring best friend who’s consistently paranoid that her husband, continually on business trips, is cheating. As Carol, Warner provides consistent comic relief, evoking smiles from the audience with each entrance and delivering Ryan’s bright, subtle dialogue with razor-sharp timing.
Ryan Stathos, in a flawless performance, plays Mary’s son John, an arrogant and sullen teen. Stathos delivers his performance with such pathos that the John comes off as completely lovable despite his distinctly teen boy characteristics. One of the more touching moments in the play arrives during a scene in which Ryan’s Sam and John toss a football around and Sam realizes she sees part of herself in him.
Immaculate characters and a flawless story make Dysnomia honest, refreshing and heartfelt from start to finish.
It’s well worth seeing once – if not twice.
Dysnomia is at the Lounge Theater in Los Angeles, every Friday and Saturday at 8:00 pm, and every Sunday at 7:00 pm, now through September 10th. Purchase tickets here!