William Hayes Perry Mansion, Courtesy of Heritage Square Museum, Los Angeles, California.

Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)

by Sheila Callaghan
directed by Jeremy Aluma

Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
plus Sundays, Nov. 13 & Dec. 18 @ 7pm

Buy Tickets Now or call (310) 281-8337

It's Christmas, and a year has passed since the untimely death of Janice's father. Struggling to cope, Janice is holding spiteful conversations with her dolls, and Mother is suffering from panic attacks, with only her baking skills to keep her busy. In their deteriorating Apartment that incessantly begs for repairs, their only comforts are visitations from their respective celebrity crushes - Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford. With the support of Justin's affection, Janice begins to craft a plan that will mend the chasm in their lives. Meanwhile, the Apartment is developing murderous plans of its own...

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Reviews of Past Productions

“...crafty, eccentric, spikily poetic...” -Washington Post

“...the shortest, sharpest – and the most seemingly effortlessly poetic – play you’ll see... astute and affecting...” -D.C. Theatre Scene

“...poetic and bittersweet... heartbreaking...” -Austin 360

“...a modern masterpiece.” -Twin Cities Daily Planet

Reviews of the Sacred Fools production

"Five words to describe Sacred Fools' production of my play Crumble: passionate, raw, playful, and totally unsettling." -Sheila Callaghan

"When theatre is firing on all cylinders it does what film routinely refuses to do: provide an immersive and lyrical experience that calls on the audience’s suspension of disbelief to create what is an emotional experience first, and a story second. This is what the production of Sheila Callaghan‘s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) aims for …and achieves." -turnstyle

"Every night before I go to bed I say a little prayer and thank the universe that we have indie theatre. Without independent art we would not have a play like Crumble... fascinating... remarkable..." -Huffington Post

"...a striking, uniquely affecting work." -BackStage

"...plenty of emotional tinder... inspired drama..." -Burbank Beyond

"Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) can be described in one word: Brilliance." -Santa Monica Mirror

Read the full reviews

Special Talkback Panel on Friday, December 2 after the show
with author Sheila Callaghan and the cast & crew

Special Talkback Panel on Friday, November 25 after the show:
Crumbling in the Face of Grief

Friday, November 25th will be a very special performance of Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake). We will be hosting a talkback session following the performance with the cast of the show along with three very inspiring guests: acclaimed LCT Michelle Post (Grief and Loss Expert), innovative LCT Jessica LeRoy (Founder of the Center for Psychology of Women located in L.A., CA) and distinguished PSY.D. Jenny Yip (OCD Specialist at the acclaimed Renewed Freedom Center located in West Los Angeles, specializing in treating anxiety disorders, OCD behaviors such as Hoarding and Eating Disorders). These three remarkable women will be joining us in an enlightening discussion with our talented cast concerning the psychology of grief in relation to our production as well as discussing how we, as human beings, cope when everything around us crumbles.

Read Jessica LeRoy's article about the event on the "Center for the Psychology of Women" blog

An excerpt from the panel discussion:


All photos by Ed Krieger * Powered by Flash Gallery


Kate Wronowski as Janice
Carrie Keranen as Mother
Alyssa Preston as Barbara
Brendan Hunt as The Apartment
John Halbach as Father / Justin Timberlake / Harrison Ford


Bri Price as Janice
Courtney DeCosky as Mother
Lisa Rothschiller as Barbara
Joe Massingill as The Apartment
Ross Marquand as Father / Justin Timberlake / Harrison Ford


Producer - Jeremy Aldridge
Associate Producers - Jeremy Aluma & Kyla Garcia
Stage Manager - Heatherlynn Gonzalez
Assistant Stage Manager - Alyson Schultz
Set Designer - Staci Walters
Costume Designer - Christy Hauptman
Lighting Designer - Douglas Gabrielle
Sound Designer - Dan Hoal
Property Designer - Lisa Anne Nicolai
Videographer - Chloe Weaver
Flight Rigger - Andrew Amani
Master Carpenter - Dave Knutson
Graphic Design - Kiff Scholl
Postcard Photographer - Mustafa Sayed



When theatre is firing on all cylinders it does what film routinely refuses to do: provide an immersive and lyrical experience that calls on the audience’s suspension of disbelief to create what is an emotional experience first, and a story second. This is what the production of Sheila Callaghan‘s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) aims for …and achieves.

We first encountered the production’s director, Jeremy Aluma, at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival, where his production of 4 Clowns: Romeo & Juliet was a highlight of the fest. Since then, Aluma has taken an earlier 4 Clowns show on the road for a multi-state Fringe tour that earned accolades along the way. Now Aluma has landed back in L.A. with a solid production of the popular Crumble.

The play concerns itself with the lives of a single mother (Carrie Keranen) and her 11-year-old daughter Janice (Kate Wronowski) who live in an apartment that has fallen into serious disrepair in the wake of the death of Janice’s father. Crumble lives in the tradition of plays where a secret lays at the heart of the disconnect between the characters, and over the course of the story, details are parceled out that explain the extreme conditions the relationships begin in.

The plot of the play revolves around Janice’s request for seven strange objects for Christmas, whose purpose — along with the secret of her father’s death — only become apparent at the end of the story. Guilt drives these characters towards a catharsis, and in fine serio-comic tradition, there is a lot of fun and strangeness to be had along the way.

The show kicks off in earnest with a monologue from the dilapidated “Apartment” (a supurb Brendan Hunt) which used to be a fine manor house. Straight off the bat we’re on the poetic end of the play spectrum. Callaghan’s lyricism makes the leaps of faith required to cut free of naturalism a joy to take. Hunt tackles the language with aplomb, and illustrates the Apartment’s soliloquies through the kind of deft physicality that is director Aluma’s trademark.

Rarely are set and character as married as they are in Crumble. Hunt may give the Apartment its voice, but Staci Walters’ dynamic, disheveled set is matched by costume designer Christy Hauptman’s look for Hunt that creates a seamless harmony. When Hunt crawls up from under the stage for some of his entrances it can be hard sometimes to discern where the man ends and the floorboards begin. That we’re given such a fully realized and magical character in just the first few moments is all too often a rare treat on the small theatre circuit.

Wronowski’s Janice is hyper-kinetic, and until it is noted that her character is 11-years-old, it’s a touch much. Playing kids can be difficult for adult actors, playing hyperactive kids all but impossible. By the end of the evening I had no problem accepting Wronowski as a singularly strange child. Some of that lays in part with the chemistry she had with John Halbach as her fantasy of Justin Timberlake, who makes cameo appearances that illustrate Janice’s passage into puberty. Halbach gets to have the broadest comic fun in the cast, and doubles as the mother’s teen heartthrob, Harrison Ford.

Keranen plays Janice’s mother as always just on the stable side of fragile, doing most of the heavy lifting for the play’s tension. It’s a difficult task, and one I wouldn’t envy. Her role is not as flashy as the rest of the casts, even the character of her sister Barbara (played on opening night by understudy Lisa Rothschiller) has more quirky material to play with, but the audience would not be able to care one whit about the story if Keranen was not up to the task. Thankfully, she is.

Having only encountered director Aluma’s work in the stripped down context of 4 Clowns -- which uses little more than a pair of ladders and a curtain for a set — it’s satisfying to know that he has multiple styles of production up his sleeves.

--Noah J. Nelson
© 2011 turnstyle

Huffington Post

Every night before I go to bed I say a little prayer and thank the universe that we have indie theatre. Without independent art we would not have a play like Crumble. It is the fascinating story of a mother, her strange daughter, Janice, and their house that is slowly deteriorating. Despite difficult dialogue, the show ultimately succeeds in creating a world with intriguing ideas and unique perspective.

Life after death is something we all wonder about, but nobody knows what it is or even if it is. What about life after death for those who keep living? Losing a loved one is not easily done, especially when that loved one is the patriarch of a family, and his death is sudden and untimely. Playwright Sheila Callaghan explores the human condition in a unique and intriguing fashion. There's a fine line between being enchantingly odd and isolating yourself from a wide audience. At times, the cute, wacky dialogue was superfluous (reminiscent of Diablo Cody). However, the spirit of the play is wonderfully weird. It's that quirky quality that sets the play apart from it's contemporaries and makes it rather remarkable. So sure, some of the audience will be lost, but it's worth it. After a certain point, mainstream theatre (and cinema for that matter) just turns into a gray paste of mediocrity.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Crumble is how congruent all the ideas and concepts were. Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford show up abruptly in hallucinations, and it makes perfect sense. Director Jeremy Aluma should be commended for his eloquent work in facilitating the author's bizarre perspective. That bizarre perspective would not be the same without the magnificent set that did much more than you would expect in such a small space.

The greatest redeeming quality in the show was the advent of The Apartment as a literal character in story. The house the family lives in is a unifying force between the communication avoidance of Janice and her panic-attack-stricken mother. Brendan Hunt employed the role of The Apartment with artful nuance. Mother (as referred to in the program and script, but often called Clara onstage) had the weight of the show, and the world, on her shoulders. Carrie Keranen played the part with a masterful balance of strength and weakness. When I first saw Kate Wronowski spastically dancing, I was afraid that she would be unconvincing as the eleven year old, Janice. Quite the opposite, Wronowski proceeded to be endearing and capture the essence of young, disturbed adolescent. Alyssa Preston added support and a well-accented performance as the lonely aunt, Barbara.

Among the many peculiar conceptual elements that ran rampant through the course of Crumble, were unrelenting psychological elements. The deconstruction of the house becomes internalized though the individuals who inhabit it. The play is about trying to pull everything together while falling apart. Death is as contagious as the common cold. It spreads like a cancer from loss and attacks the intrinsic body of its victims. And conquering that disease, rising above that adversity, fighting for your life is not something easily done while the world around you gradually crumbles.

--Tony Bartolone
© 2011 Huffington Post


The idiomatic fusion of gravitas and whimsy that distinguishes playwright Sheila Callaghan's oeuvre crystallized in her breakthrough play about the extremes to which grief can drive the bereaved. Director Jeremy Aluma's smartly appointed staging hits the externals, yet lapses in casting and tone impede its deepest potential.

First seen in 2005 at EdgeFest, the post-Ionesco narrative carries a wacky charm that masks roiling pain. It's Christmas, one year after Mother (Carrie Keranen) and 11-year-old Janice (Kate Wronowski) lost Father (John Halbach)—first seen in silhouette behind designer Staci Walters' witty set—to a holiday accident best left unrevealed. Barbara (Alyssa Preston), Mother's childless sibling, reaches out to her manically cooking sister and eerily morbid niece but gets more feedback from her army of cats. Critically, a third mourner inhabits this scenario: the anthropomorphic Apartment (Brendan Hunt), who witnesses, aids, and intrudes on Mother and Janice's polarized relationship and erratic behavior—ultra-esoteric recipes from Mother, an ominous gift list from Janice—and two famous fantasy figures (Halbach) who channel Dad.

It's a singularly original, deceptively oddball property. On surface levels, director Aluma's execution reflects this: Hunt appearing from the décor in ever more surprising ways, Halbach's surrogate figures ascending into the flies, unexpected plaster and wallpaper disarray crumbling from Walters' scenic wonder. Douglas Gabrielle's lighting plot, Christy Hauptman's costume parade, and Daniel Hoal's sound design have wide-ranging effects to achieve, which they do with aplomb.

Hunt, his deadpan charged, makes a slyly proficient Apartment, and Halbach exhibits considerable subtlety in his incognitos, created with seamlessly segueing voice and expressions. Wronowski imbues Janice with unmannered stillness and edge, withstanding memories of indelible originator Lily Holleman, and she and Keranen look related.

However, the profound depths beneath Mother's hyperactivity are only half present in Keranen's valiantly chipper attack. She hardly seems related to the miscast Preston, whose obviated character-actress cutes as Barbara deflate the role's ironies. This is the production's real problem: Aluma nails the foundational structure, but the nuances of the play's seriocomic wiring only register in bisected segments, with the final masterstroke here almost perfunctory. Even so, "Crumble" remains a striking, uniquely affecting work. That may well suffice for fans of author and company.

--David C. Nichols
© 2011 BackStage

Burbank Beyond

The holidays and grief have always made for combustible drama, and playwright SHEILA CALLAGHAN’s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) has plenty of emotional tinder on hand.

You have the widowed Mother (played by CARRIE KERANEN) facing her first Christmas—and her panic attacks– without her beloved husband. There’s her daughter Janice (KATE WRONOWSKI), making her dolls voice feelings too raw with pain to own directly. Both Mother and Janice call upon their respective household Hollywood gods (Harrison Ford for Mother and Justin Timberlake for Janice), with JOHN HALLBACK maintaining a divine balance between humor and pathos. And LISA ROTHSCHILLER (understudy for ALYSSA PRESTON) finds that same sweet spot in her portrayal of Mother’s cat lady sister Barbara, whose infertility makes her season of sorrow unending.

Director JEREMY ALUMA sets Crumble ablaze with the playwright’s stoke-of-genius character: The Apartment (BRENDAN HUNT), aided and abetted by STACI WALTER’s wonderfully-realized dilapidated apartment set and CHRISTY HAUPTMAN’s spot-on costume. Anyone who has entered a building and immediately sensed happiness or sadness will wonder why such a character wasn’t created sooner. The interplay of The Apartment’s scheming, Mother’s mourning and Janice’s dreaming makes for inspired drama.

Crumble made me think about Detroit, a city that once—like The Apartment—knew grander and happier times. Crumbled buildings, crumbling hopes. Silent screams from broken windows. They say “the walls have ears” but do we? Well, perhaps Crumble will provoke different musings in you. See this play and find out. You may receive a holiday gift that will linger long after the toys have been trashed.

--Greg Simay
© 2011 Burbank Beyond

Santa Monica Mirror

A widowed mother and a child in mourning, a lady with more cats than there are U.S. states, Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford – did that get your attention? How about a talking house? Every once in a while theater comes around that you just can’t explain until you’ve witnessed it firsthand.

“Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)” can be described in one word: Brilliance.

Local and well-known director Jeremy Aluma (award winner for best revival of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot;” and conceiver of “Four Clowns”), as part of the Sacred Fool season, brings the masterpiece “Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)” to the Los Angeles area. Crumble is written by Sheila Callagahn, who has a notch for writing simple stories that tell themselves through emotion and dialogue.

“It tracks an emotional journey of the relationship for a single mother….while being very relatable to all facades of life,” said Carrie Keranen, who plays the mother. Crumble’s synopsis is simple and intriguing: A year after the untimely death of Janice’s (Kate Wronoski) father, she holds spiteful conversations with her dolls, while her mother suffers panic attacks and their neglected apartment begs for attention. When their celebrity crushes – Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford (both played by the handsome John Halbach who is making his Los Angeles stage debut in the production) are the only ones who can draw them out of their shells.

From the emotional acting and staging, to intricate details of the old apartment – every crook, detail, and squeal – is represented. In fact, throughout the entire play, there is the faint sound of a mouse or rat. Some may argue that the only weakness that Crumble brings is that laughter can overshadow the serious notes and themes brought to the table. In reality, this is one of its greatest strengths. The cast, under Aluma’s masterful direction, is riveting in the way it is able to keep the sorrowful undertones alive.

While the intensity of Kernanen and Wronowski is enough for any director to be happy, Aluma delivers the one-two punch by having two secondary characters that carry equal weight. Barbara (played by the charming and boisterous Alyssa Preston) and the Apartment (as portrayed by Brendan Hunt, an LA Stage Alliance Ovation winner) bring a new level of comedic sadism. While Preston plays the cliché old cat lady to a T, she brings a charisma to the stage that makes her humor the voice of reason. Hunt, who also provides comic relief, delivers the opening monologue; supplements Preston as the Lucy-Ethel punch – one would not work without the other.

“It’s a unique theatrical show in the way that poetic language is presented in a contemporary show,” says Halbach.

--Kenne Guillory
© 2011 Santa Monica Mirror

StageScene L.A.

RECOMMENDED.  The walls have eyes…and ears and a mouth and arms and legs in Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake), Sheila Callaghan’s surreal family drama, now playing at Sacred Fools Theatre.

Brendan Hunt gives a bravura performances as said walls, windows, and floorboards in the role of The Apartment, the crumbling domicile where an eleven-year old girl and her mother find escape from reality in fantasies of ‘N Sync’s Timberlake and Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones mode.

Regular StageSceneLA readers might quite accurately surmise this to be a tad too fringey for this reviewer’s theatrical tastes, and several somewhat problematic performances work against audience involvement in mother and daughter’s plight. Still, under Jeremy Aluma’s imaginative direction, Crumble is a visual stunner with enough engaging moments to make it worth catching.

Playwright Callaghan keeps us guessing about what sends preteen Janice (Kate Wronowski) and her 30something mom Clara (Carrie Keranen) into their fantasy sequences, though it’s clear from the concern expressed by Clara’s cat lady sister Barbara (Alyssa Preston) that all is not well in Apartmentland.

The emergence of the dilapidated apartment itself, quite literally through the worn-down floor in the play’s opening sequence, cues us in from the get-go that we will be in the land of the surreal, as does Callaghan’s often disjointed dialog which has The Apartment soliloquizing, Janice talking through the voices of her Barbie and baby dolls, and Justin and Indiana appearing in daughter and mother’s daydreams before making their exits by ascending quite literally through the rafters.

The Apartment is by far the best reason to catch Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake), both in Hunt’s quirky, quicksilver performance and in its non-human manifestation in Stacy Walters’ extraordinary scenic design, which Douglas Gabrielle lights both from above and from without, through thin translucent plastic sections of its decaying walls.

Crumble comes most vividly to life whenever the charmingly charismatic John Halbach appears, first in winningly hip-hoppy Justin Timberlake mode and later as a swashbuckling Harrison Ford/Indiana Jones.

Other performances are more problematic. Keranen gives Clara a spunky appeal, but her performance could benefit greatly from a more palpable sense of ongoing pain hiding just under the surface. Eleven-year-old Janice may well have been written to be played by an adult actress, but for this reviewer at least, the choice doesn’t work. As hard as Wronowski tries to make us believe that she is a precocious-to-obnoxious tween (and she does an admirable job of it), I couldn’t help wondering how much more powerful Crumble would be with an actress of Janice’s tender years and accompanying vulnerability in the role. Preston does subtly moving work as Barbara, but it can be overly subtle, a kind of acting for the camera that seems too low-key (and low volume) for the Sacred Fools’ relatively large dimensions. That being said, Preston’s emotional moments in the play’s last third are some of the evening’s best.

Christy Hauptman has designed some terrific costumes, with special snaps to Janice’s kidswear, Justin and Indiana’s iconic outfits, and most particularly The Apartment’s “distressed” duds, which make him/it seem quite literally to be part of the ramshackle walls, windows, and floors. Daniel Hoal’s excellent sound design aids greatly in enhancing the play’s surreal mood, and Lisa Anne Nicolai gets high marks for Crumble’s many worn out/worn down properties. I’m not sure whom to credit for insuring that the parts of the apartment that fall down from ceiling to floor do so precisely on cue, but he/she gets a high five for ingenuity.

Chloe Weaver is videographer, Andrew Amani fight rigger, and Dave Knutson master carpenter. Jeremy Aldridge is producer, and Aluma and Kyle Garcia are associate producers. Heatherlynn Gonzalez is stage manager.

If Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) doesn’t succeed as well as it would with some performance adjustments, and if playwright Callaghan’s style here is considerably less to this reviewer’s tastes than her previously reviewed Lascivious Something, the visual imagination shown by director Aluma and Hunt’s uniquely watchable performance make it worth a look-see by adventurous theatergoers.

--Steven Stanley
© 2011 StageScene L.A.

Daily 49er

"Lay me down, Justin Timberlake!" Like all 11-year-old-girls in 2000, Janice screams for affection and intimacy from her celebrity crush in the eclectic play, "Crumble," written by Sheila Callaghan and directed by the Cal State Long Beach alum Jeremy Aluma.

Presented at the intimate Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles, this play incorporates not only a fantasy representation of pop star Justin Timberlake, but the way a broken family deals with the loss of a father while a preteen learns about herself becoming a woman.

The multi-level stage, created by set designer and CSULB alumna Staci Walters, is falling apart with cracks in the floors, torn wallpaper, broken windows and a front door that creeks loudly every time someone opens it. The crumbling apartment is meant to be a metaphor, which represents how Janice and her mother continue to crumble a year after the death of her father, according to Aluma.
Aside from the physical aspect of the deteriorating apartment, Brendan Hunt performs the personification of the apartment, who is sad and upset by the unkempt conditions of what he has become. He steals the show with his performance of proper and robust dialogue mixed with his sorrowful expressions, allowing the audience to feel sorry for him. However, he also creates laughter with sardonic comments toward the ladies of the house.

As Christmas approaches, it becomes apparent to the mother that her mother-daughter relationship, which once consisted of playful laughter, has now shifted to non-verbal communication because Janice is going through an awkward phase in life and would rather have spiteful conversations with her dolls than talk to her neuritic mother.

Opening the play, Janice (Kate Wronowski), is seen dancing frantically while listening to her portable CD player, and already has the audience laughing by her strange offbeat performance. With her squeaky voice, uncombed hair and mismatched outfit, it is easy for the audience to remember what it was like to be 11-years-old and unable to fit in anywhere, including your own home. Wronowski's acting is a spot-on portrayal of a preteen who desperately needs guidance but is unwilling to accept any.

Meanwhile, her mother (Carrie Keranen) is suffering from panic attacks with the idea that Janice's strange tendencies are a result of drug use. Throughout the play, she constantly tells herself to breathe in order to calm herself down. Keranen's fearful facial expressions and fast-paced dialogue does justice in epitomizing the worry and anxiety any mother would feel after hearing her daughter, who never cares to shower, argue with her dolls.

Ironically, the only things keeping Janice and her mother sane are dream-like visits from their celebrity crushes, Justin Timberlake and Harrison Ford, both remarkably played by John Halbach.

During 2000, when the musical group *Nsync was at their prime in pop culture, every teenage girl in America had the ultimate wish to meet Justin Timberlake. Luckily, Janice gets a surprise visit from her crush, where he kisses her passionately and charms her with his suave, sexy voice.

In addition, Janice's mother is also comforted with a visit from the strong and debonair Harrison Ford, dressed in his "Indiana Jones" attire, with an open shirt and mysterious hat. Halbach is able to transform from the young upbeat Timberlake into the wise sensual Ford, not only with a costume change but with his diverse acting skills and presence on stage.

--Sally Gonzalez
© 2011 Daily 49er

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At a Glance
CRUMBLE (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)
NOV. 11 - DEC. 18, 2011
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
Sun, 11/13 & 12/18 @ 7pm
Tickets: $20
Written by
Sheila Callaghan
Directed by
Jeremy Aluma
Kate Wronowski as Janice
Carrie Keranen as Mother
Alyssa Preston as Barbara
Brendan Hunt as The Apartment
John Halbach as Father / Justin Timberlake / Harrison Ford