The Value of Moscow

by Amy Dellagiarino
directed by Carrie Keranen

EXTENDED THROUGH DEC. 15
NOVEMBER 9 - DECEMBER 8, 2018
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm
plus Sundays, Nov. 18 & 25 and Dec. 2 @ 7pm
Previews: Fri-Sat, Nov. 2-3 @ 8pm

Tickets: $15 (Previews: $10) - Buy Tickets Now!

WORLD PREMIERE! There's no place like home... to make you wanna kill somebody. Three grown "adult" sisters are thrust back into living together as a last resort after their various lives have fallen apart. This trio can't even agree on how to unpack their stuff much less their relationships and pasts. And before they can finish the bottle of vodka they found in the kitchen, everything goes from bad to worse, to a lot, LOT worse. Can they set aside their grievances long enough to work together and save themselves? Probably not. But with acerbic wit and an encounter with the pizza man, these three sisters aim to find out.

Performing on the Broadwater Second Stage (Entrance at 6320 Santa Monica Blvd.)

Regretfully this production can not accommodate late seating due to safety reasons. Thank you for your understanding!

"This is a terrific production of a seriously fun show, and I recommend it highly." -Terry Morgan, Stage Raw (TOP TEN / RECOMMENDED)

"With hilarious deadly accuracy, playwright Dellagiarno's snappy dialogue captures the kind of put-downs and barbed comebacks only siblings who know each other all too well can use to pick at each other's psychic scabs... marvelously witty, literate banter." -Philip Brandes, L.A. Times

"A satisfyingly deep dark black comedy, 'The Value of Moscow' is soul satisfying... I am still laughing." -Paul Myrvold's Theatre Notes

"...a crisp 65 minutes of beautifully nonsensical hilarity... really smart theater..." -Tracey Paleo, Gia on the Move (RECOMMENDED)

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Friday, November 16: DONATE WHAT YOU CAN. It's "Pay What You Can" with a twist! Half of all proceeds for this performance will be donated to She Should Run, a non-partisan 501(c)3 with the mission to expand the talent pool of women running for office in the United States. Women are underrepresented at all levels in the 500,000+ elected offices across the U.S. That is why She Should Run is committed to getting at least 250,000 women to run by 2030. #250kby2030. Purchase tickets now!

Photos

Quiz

Which Character are you from "The Value of Moscow"?

Cast

STARRING
Devin Sidell as Emily
Madeleine Heil as Rose
Julie Bersani as Clara
with
Gregory Guy Gorden as Cliff
Andres Paul Ramacho as Jimbo

Understudies

Tiffany Cole as Emily
Heather Klinke as Rose
Nikki Mejia as Clara
with
Ryan Gowland as Cliff
Brendan Broms as Jimbo

Crew

Produced for Sacred Fools by Marisa O'Brien
Associate Producer - Monica Greene
Stage Manager - Billy Baker
Assistant Director - Lemon Baardsen
Scenic Design / Title Logo - Aaron Francis
Light & Sound Designer - Matt Richter
Costume & Prop Designer - Linda Muggeridge
Fight Choreographer - Mike Mahaffey
Key Art - Mara Hesed

- Sacred Fools Company Member

Reviews

Stage Raw (TOP TEN / RECOMMENDED)

One of the best experiences for a theatre critic is encountering a talented artist for the first time and being able to say to one's readers, "Hey, you should check this person out!" Happily, two such artists are part of Sacred Fools Theater Company's world premiere production of The Value of Moscow. Actress Madeleine Heil steals the show with her irresistible comedic performance, while playwright Amy Dellagiarino displays a wicked wit in this very enjoyable production.

Three sisters have just rented a place which they plan to share. Emily (Devin Sidell), an author, is taking a (supposedly) temporary break from her marriage. First-grade teacher Rose (Madeleine Heil) is thrilled to be together with her siblings again, but is worried about her sister Clara (Julie Bersani). Clara is recovering from a recent suicide attempt and has left her boyfriend Jimbo (Andres Paul Ramacho), who's purportedly in the Irish Mob. As the sisters unpack their belongings, their secrets begin to come out - along with a gun.

Heil is note perfect as the slightly dim yet sweet Rose, whose chirpy optimism and kindness barely covers a desperate need to connect. Sidell, nailing every bitter line, is excellent as the brittle Emily, and is equally good as her character becomes looser and goofier as the show goes on. Bersani has less success with Clara, perhaps because the character, as written, isn't as convincing as the other two. Ramacho is very good as the surprisingly intellectual Jimbo, and Gregory Guy Gorden is quite funny as the hapless pizza deliveryman, Cliff.

Director Carrie Keranen gets great, nuanced work from her cast, and ably manages both the quiet moments and the crazier ones. Linda Muggeridge's costumes are well-chosen, from Rose's cheerful green sweater/red skirt combo to Emily's darker purple and black clothing. Dellagiarino, skilled with humorous dialogue, is especially adept at capturing the combative repartee between siblings ("Is that your comeback?" "Is that your face?"). She also gets good mileage from the play's connection to Chekhov's Three Sisters: her own work becomes meta-theatrical as her characters often discuss the classic play. The show isn't perfect - the character of Clara doesn't seem as credible or individual as the others, and the last half of the play feels more artificial than the first. But overall you come away with the impression that Dellagiarino is a playwright to watch. Her talent is clearly apparent.

This is a terrific production of a seriously fun show, and I recommend it highly.

--Terry Morgan
Ⓒ 2018 Stage Raw

L.A. Times

Barbs fly among sisters in 'The Value of Moscow,' a modern-day riff on Chekhov

Thanksgiving inevitably invites appreciation for the warm fuzzies that nurture family bonds. For some, it might be a lovingly prepared holiday feast; for others, their adorable kitten photos posted on Facebook.

But for the trio of estranged sisters at the center of "The Value of Moscow," Amy Dellagiarno's new black comedy from Sacred Fools, the ties that bind turn out to be less sugar-frosted: an attempted suicide, an imploding marriage and perhaps a homicide or two.

Each of the squabbling siblings has a different reason for moving into their seedy new shared apartment, but they have one thing in common: none of them want to be there. The oldest - thirtysomething Emily (Tiffany Cole, substituting for Devin Sidell) - is a mediocre writer whose current fiction is that her husband "just needs space." The youngest, pouty suicidal rebel Clara (Julie Bersani), proclaims their new digs make her want to kill herself, to which Emily retorts, "Yeah, but you already want to kill yourself, so that opinion doesn't mean anything." It's left to the middle sister, perky peacemaker Rose (Madeleine Heil), to try to smooth over the three sisters' perpetually ruffled feathers.

With hilarious deadly accuracy, playwright Dellagiarno's snappy dialogue captures the kind of put-downs and barbed comebacks only siblings who know each other all too well can use to pick at each other's psychic scabs.

Naturally, long-concealed painful truths get unpacked along with personal possessions. If the setup seems formulaic at first, Dellagiarno quickly steers things into unexpected surreal territory with the respective entrances and exits of a sad-sack middle-age pizza delivery man (Ryan Gowland, substituting for Gregory Guy Gordon) and Carla's hot-tempered ex-boyfriend (Andres Paul Ramacho).

A self-aware reference links the siblings' plight to the unfulfilled Moscow dreams of "The Three Sisters" (hence the play's title), with even more on-the-nose adherence to Chekhov's rule that a gun introduced in one act must be fired in the second.

Carrie Keranen's staging honors the playwright's intended accelerated pacing, a key factor in plunging us into the story's rapidly unraveling events; however, at times, the artificially hurried delivery comes at the expense of the marvelously witty, literate banter.

Nevertheless, with its quirky mix of realistic family dynamics and absurdist humor, "The Value of Moscow" offers terrific value in keeping with the Sacred Fools mission to present new works at rock-bottom prices.

--Philip Brandes
Ⓒ 2018 L.A. Times

Paul Myrvold's Theatre Notes

A satisfyingly deep dark black comedy, "The Value of Moscow" is soul satisfying at Sacred Fools Theater Company. (via Facebook)

I like my comedy black, and the blacker the better. Amy Dellagiarino's new play, The Value of Moscow, now playing at Sacred Fools, fits my predilection like an Armani suit. The relevance of the title to the action spools out with satisfying coyness, when three sisters enter from the snowy cold to unpack forty or more boxes of stuff into the apartment they are to occupy. It is clear at the outset that these women have issues, both personal and sororal. The effervescent Rose (Madeleine Heil), a first grade teacher, attempts to organize the unpacking with forced cheerfulness, in the face of glowering sister Emily (Tiffany Cole on the evening I attended), and morose Clara (Julie Bersani). Why are these ill-fitting siblings moving in together? Each suffers from the results of individual crises. Emily is a writing-blocked novelist taking a break from her marriage. Clara is just out of hospital after a botched suicide attempt. And Rose tries her darnedest to keep the fractured family together.

Fueled by a terrific script, the actors, under the smart, fast-paced direction of Carrie Keranen, seethe with wicked, hilarious banter as their individual natures are revealed. The sister act is tested with the arrival on a snowmobile of a pizza deliveryman, Cliff (Ryan Gowland on the evening I attended), who gets more attention than he bargained for. And later, Clara's Irish Mafia boyfriend, Jimbo (Andres Paul Ramacho), shows up banging on the door. All get swept up in a delicious maelstrom of gallows humor farce. For those wondering about the title, cast your thoughts in the direction of dramatic literature. We are not in Moscow, Idaho.

Produced with wonderful simplicity and cunning stagecraft, The Value of Moscow boasts a scenic design by Aaron Francis, light and sound by Matthew Richter, and costumes and props by Linda Muggeridge. The stage is managed with authority by Billy Baker.

As my companion and I moved out of the intimate auditorium, through the tiny lobby, and out to the street, I started a giggle that morphed to a guffaw and led to laughter that carried around the corner and halfway down Lillian Way before it subsided. I am still smiling.

--Paul Myrvold
Ⓒ 2018 Paul Myrvold's Theatre Notes

Gia on the Move (RECOMMENDED)

'The Value of Moscow': Hilariously Implausible, Wonderfully Absurd

What is the value of Moscow? Well, if one had to explain it, and they do try, we'll just start with really smart theater.

Carrie Keranen makes her Sacred Fools mainstage directorial debut by organizing playwright Amy Dellagriarino's fascinatingly simple, five-character play into a crisp 65 minutes of beautifully nonsensical hilarity.

This is one of the rare moments when I've sat in a theater and felt a little bit remorseful of such an abrupt ending. The story could absolutely entertain a second act. But as it stands, the soap-serio finale has a to be continued feeling that leaves it to the audience to imagine what might occur in the coming moments for three siblings on the verge of histrionic implosion.

Three adult sisters, Emily, Rose and Clara, whose lives have fallen apart, are moving in together during the onset of a blizzard, bitching all the way about everything from unpacking techniques to cooking choices. Between bouts of angry denial, accusation, dumb, barely romantic fantasy, lies, getting drunk on a found bottle of vodka, and repeated pleas to get along, they decide to order out from the only pizza delivery open in town. What ensues is a practical Three-Stooges style, slapstick turn of events...

Extremely diverting, The Value of Moscow, playing its world premiere at the Broadwater Second Stage, is endowed with as always perfect light and sound design by Matt Richter and additionally costumes and props by Linda Muggeridge. Aaron Francis tops this production with a truly inventive scenic design that extends well into the hallway outside the theater that gives this production a fair amount of breath for the short, light, comedy it is.

Starring Julie Bersani, Madeleine Heil, Devin Sidell, Gregory Guy Gordon and Andres Paul Ramacho. Featuring understudies Tiffany Cole, Heather Klinke, Nikki Mejia, Brendan Broms and Ryan Gowland.

So well-directed and acted. If there were any mistakes, they easily blend into the evening's insanity where mishap piles atop mishap to implausible effect. But we go along with it because it's just plain wonderfully absurd as hell.

--Tracey Paleo
Ⓒ 2018 Gia on the Move

Feature Articles

Voyage LA

Meet Amy Dellagiarino

Today we'd like to introduce you to Amy Dellagiarino.

Amy, can you briefly walk us through your story - how you started and how you got to where you are today.

I was always an artistic (and kinda weird, let's be honest) child, so pretty much right away it was obvious I would go into something creative. I was very lucky to have encouraging parents who never made me feel like I should pursue something more practical (to this day I'm pretty sure it's my mom's greatest dream to have me and my sister write for The Muppets, so if you're listening, Jim Henson people... Margie Dellagiarino would REALLY like to make that happen...)

I fell in love with the theatre pretty early on. I think, as an introvert, acting was an amazing way to get to live out all these colors I felt protective against showing other people in my own life. I was 100% positive I would live in New York forever and be an actor, and I did do that for a long time.

I got my BFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and lived in a teeny tiny railroad style apartment (New York people know what I'm talking about) with way too many other people, until one day I woke up, looked around at my room (which was really a glorified hallway) and at all my clothes stuffed onto a rolling garment rack (because there were no closets), and at the tiny shaft of light from my super skinny prison/castle style window that looked DIRECTLY INTO MY ROOMMATE'S ROOM and thought "...what am I doing?"

So I decided to pack it up and move to Chicago and do theatre out there for a while until I was ready to come back to New York. At some point during my time in Chicago, theatre was making me more frustrated with life instead of less. It just seemed like all the fun parts in plays were always male roles. I was REALLY tired of essentially playing the 17-year-old who's trying to get a date to prom (I mean, I get that when you're a 17-year old that stuff can matter, but when you're in your 30's it sort of... isn't the most rewarding character arc to explore.)

I started writing, mostly as a creative outlet so I didn't go insane. I worked on drafts of two different novels, wondering if maybe that was a direction I should go in, but never had much success with that world. And then one day after seeing a friend's show I had an idea for a beginning of a play. So I started writing it. A million drafts later, that play is called "The Value of Moscow" and is now being produced by Sacred Fools Theatre Company in Los Angeles as part of their 22nd season.

At some point between that very first draft of my very first play and today, my brain made the switch from acting to writing. I cannot even really explain it, it just felt like my way of expression was switching from one medium to another. The feeling I get from exploring an entire world with wonderful, strange characters all fighting to be heard inside of my head is so rewarding - I know that I've finally found what I'm meant to be doing.

And yes, I realize that I'm not in New York. From Chicago, I moved to LA so... in the opposite direction. But I'll get back to New York one day. I miss those fruit carts too much.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?

Oh my goodness NO. I had been an actor for so long I had a real struggle with letting it go. I had a miserable couple of years where I just couldn't get cast in basically anything, and I felt like theatre was trying to push me out entirely. It was awful. I wrote out of desperation because I didn't know what else to do. When I finally acknowledged that I was getting more reward out of writing than acting it felt like I was breaking up with someone I had been dating since I was 12 years old. (Sorry for that kind of gross image.)

For a long time, I felt like I didn't know who I was or what my purpose was. I locked myself in my apartment and painted a lot during that time, mostly because I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. Once I fully felt called to writing and started pursuing that, it definitely did not get easier. When people ask what you do, and you say you're a playwright, it sounds fake. Seriously! I felt like such an asshole responding with "oh, I'm a writer" or "oh, I'm a playwright" when people asked what I did. It was really hard for me to own up to it.

People want to know where your stuff went up if they've heard of it, how many productions you've had, blah blah blah... and when you're just starting out it gets really depressing. Even though I had tons of scripts I was working on, it still felt like I wasn't really doing anything. It was a lot of submitting to theatres who had no idea who I was and therefore most likely never even opened my email, let alone cracked open my script(s). It was a lot of work, constant writings, readings held in my apartment with friends, revisions, going to theatres to see their work and meet the people in charge, endless submissions, and feeling like at the end of the day I had zero to show for it.

But honestly, that's the hardest part about any creative life. The way to become successful isn't like any other "normal" job - there's no ladder to climb or list of points to make sure you check off in a certain order. It's a crap shoot. And you can't control a crap shoot. You just have to work hard, be pleasant, and hope for the best.

We'd love to hear more about what you do.

I consider myself a playwright primarily. That is where my heartbeat is.

When I work on a script, I rarely have the plot points figured out for the first draft. I usually decide on the space where the action is taking place, maybe what the overall problem is going to be, and then just sit back and watch characters start to inhabit the space. I love working like this because it really becomes about the characters and their relationships more than anything else - and relationships are what endlessly fascinate me. Human beings are so strange! Why do they make the choices they make? Why do they say (or not say) the things that they do? What do they find funny? What scares them? Working like this is a blast because usually, I end up getting surprised by where the characters end up taking the story. There's nothing like letting the characters write the play for you. It is like magic.

I think I have a very specific style and tone in my work. (I have been told by some that I have a McDonagh/Sorkin quality to my writing, which I am repeating here because I desperately want it to be true.) The easiest way to describe it is "dark comedy," but I'm not sure if that's even right. All my characters are exploring something, and all my characters are broken, but they all use humor in different ways as they explore the places where they are hurting the most. There's something about the idea of not knowing where you belong, or what life IS exactly, that I am endlessly exploring (probably because those will always be questions I ask myself and never quite know the answers to.)

Above all, I am COMMITTED to writing complex female characters. I remember this gripe from my acting days all too well - I refuse to write characters that are just one thing. For example, if a 17-year-old prom queen DOES show up in my script for whatever reason, she's probably got something else going on. Maybe she's a serial killer. I don't know. Just saying... it's possible. Everybody's got secrets.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?

I honestly have no idea. I think all my time acting was absolutely not wasted - I think it's what gives my scripts life and makes me the kind of writer that I am.

I guess maybe I just would have been kinder to myself. Probably that's something we should all be doing for ourselves.

That being said, I HAVE always stated that if I could live TWO lives, in the second one, I would be a marine biologist. So possibly I would have become a marine biologist. But who knows. I think I would have found my way to the arts eventually, even if I was surrounded by majestic sea creatures.