You gotta hand it to No Name Players: You never know what's coming next.
My memories of this local theater company include Big Love -- one of the most extraordinary nights I've ever spent in a theater -- and This Hotel, one of the most perplexing.
This summer is following the same pattern. First came The Book of Liz, an enjoyable, if slight, comedy. And now here's Elizabeth Meriwether's The Mistakes Madeline Made which is … well …
We meet Edna during her first week of housekeeping for a ridiculously rich and weird family. Interspersed are scenes in a bathtub with Edna and her journalist brother, who is just home from a war. And every now and again, we watch Edna as she tricks with yet another loser for a one-night stand.
As so it goes for the show's 75 intermissionless minutes. We bounce back and forth between stories, but also between styles. Meriwether has written each little corner of her play in a different genre; from the highly mannered language of the housekeeping scenes to the naturalistic bathtub stuff to the contemporary cynical swagger of the pick-up scenes.
And to what end, I couldn't tell you. This script feels for all the world like it was written for a playwriting class, as if Meriwether had taken a course in Christopher Durang and thought she could try it herself. She needs to try again.
When, in the final 10 minutes, she at last reveals what she's wanted the play to be about all along, you could cheer -- except that she smothers it with an unnecessary coda of cloying sentimentality.
And yet Marci Woodruff directs like it's the greatest play in the word. This is a slick, solid production moving us from beginning to end in a very efficient manner. I can't say Woodruff has fashioned a cohesive evening from Meriwether's jumble, but then I don't think anyone could.
Liz Roberts playing Edna has the same problem melding the chaotic bits the playwright has thrown at her, but she is quite moving during the dramatic reveal. And mention goes out to the strong support given by Tressa Glover, Todd Betker, Don DiGiulio and John Feightner.
THE MISTAKES MADELINE MADE continues through Aug. 13. Studio Theatre, Cathedral of Leaning. Oakland. www.nonameplayers.org