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Sunday on the Rocks 

Remarkable production by the erinys theater troupe

Wednesday, Dec 13 2000
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Theresa Rebeck's intelligent but ultimately unsatisfying script gets a remarkable production by the erinys theater troupe and director Zanne Gerrard. Elly (Arwen Anderson), an unhappy ad copywriter, lives in a cheap rental with three other women. She begins this particular Sunday by drinking scotch. Newly pregnant, she's decided to get an abortion. Two other roommates, Gayle (Jill Pixley), a social worker, and Jen (Karen Walsh), a paralegal, soon join her binge, and together they dish their fourth roommate, Jessica (Roxana Ortega), a devout Catholic who is annoyingly judgmental. (When Gayle tries to defend Jessica as just being different, Elly replies, "Yeah, she's a bitch and we're not.") Rebeck well understands both the rambling conversations and the sudden sournesses of both mood and stomach that a long day of drinking can induce. And she's very smart about how her women use humor and irony to cover their distress. But as a writer, she's not much better than her characters: Whenever the play threatens to enter new territory, to uncover real emotion, it retreats into snarkiness or sarcasm. Rebeck sums up Jessica a little too neatly, just as her roommates do (and Ortega's brilliant portrayal can't be glossed that easily). The actresses are all magnificent. Anderson nails Elly's humor and neurotic tension -- uncomfortable in her skin, she can't sit still for long, suddenly lunging out of her chair or gesticulating madly. Pixley relies on looks of open-mouthed skepticism perhaps a little too often, but she's otherwise funny and natural. Walsh is so good that she almost succeeds at an impossible transition at the end. The three have a convincing, unforced rapport, and Ortega finds amazing depths in Jessica. We're meant to condemn her reactions to an incident, but Ortega roots Jessica's motivations in such truth and complexity that we can't possibly respond so simply. These wonderful actresses (and their smart director) triumph despite the story's flaws.

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Joe Mader

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