The Attic Collective latest play I Decided I’m Fine: A Roach Play is claustrophobic and disturbing dramedy filled with masterful set design. Intelligent and skillful, this show is not to be missed.
The Attic Collective Presents
I Decided I’m Fine: A Roach Play
Directed by Rosie Glen-Lambert
February 7th through March 1st, 2020
Studio/Stage 520 N. Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90004
Tickets and information at https://www.theatticcollectivela.com/
After their award-winning run of The Last Croissant at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, The Attic Collective is back once again to deliver a show equally impressive.
Character and drama enthusiasts alike will find plenty of powerful performances and rich story material to make I Decided I'm Fine: A Roach Play a stimulating theater experience. At its very core function, this is a play that follows a family stricken by a sudden tragedy and the debilitating effects of compulsive hoarding disorder.
At times feeling more akin to an art-house experience, The Attic Collective's unique brand of storytelling is filled with impeccable improv, delightful musical numbers, and proves why their name should be synonymous with magical realism.
I will attempt to discuss the show below, but I encourage you to walk into the show with as little knowledge as possible, some of the surprises are absolutely engrossing and delightful.
As most of The Attic Collective shows before it, this one begins the minute you walk into the theatre. Brandon Blum and Julia Finch portray the Doctor Professor Of Hoarding and the Very Trustworthy Therapist. They serve as interactive guides throughout the evening, providing moments of comedic respite, which is welcome amongst the more serious tone of the linear portions of the show.
The story starts after the sudden death of the infant child of Ellen (Veronica Tjioe) and Stephen ( Tyler Bremer). The young couple finds themselves faced with the immense task of letting go of the physical items reminding them of the incident. For Ellen, this burden proves to be too much.
I personally have been guilty of letting knick-knacks build up over time, and who hasn't? However, compulsive hoarding is a recognized anxiety disorder that involves much more than keeping extra papers or buying one-too-many Funk-O Pops. Severe compulsive hoarding interferes with a person's most basic day-to-day activities–such as cooking, cleaning, showering, and sleeping–because piles of mail or personal items are found in the sink, in the bath, on the bed, and in every corner of a home. This tends to lead to unsanitary living environments. Just the mere thought of discarding or moving an item can trigger panic or anxiety in the hoarder. In this play, it takes a physical form through the skillful physical comedy of actor Kat Devoe-Peterson.
All around the characterizations are one of the most substantial aspects of the show. The entire cast devours the weighty dialogue, and all deliver strong performances. We see Stephen's family having the all too relatable conversation around a game of Monopoly. His Father Paul (Bart Tangredi), his brother Shawn (Sutton Arabe), and sister Karissa (Hailey Mcafee) serve as touchstones for Stephen and further the distance kept from the grieving Ellen. The eccentric neighbors Deborah (Meg Cashel) and Mark (Luke Medina) are an anchor for Ellen and Stephen. Their incredible performances are Greek-chorus like as they serve almost like the mirror of the internal reactions of the audience.
I would be remiss not to mention the absolute absurdity of almost the entire cast becoming a cockroach bluegrass band at the end of act 1. It's fantastic and a breath of fresh air.
The set design by Lex Gernon, paired with the 40-person house of Studio/Stage, is the visual representation of Ellen's illness. I could feel my own anxiety and panic set in as her hoarding progressed. The sound design by James Ferrero furthers this theme with rushing classical pieces as the stage transforms.
This is a play where you get to experience firsthand the visceral panic, desperation, and helplessness someone feels when they are immobilized by mental illness. It's intelligent and skillful and not to be missed.