“Day Trader” at the Bootleg Theatre sells with the help of an electric storyline. Every once in a while, a show comes along that just … shines.
– Theatre Review by Brett Chapin
I see a lot of Los Angeles theatre. I mean….I see A LOT of Los Angeles theatre. Yet every once in a while, a show comes along that just….shines. Day Trader by Eric Rudnick, playing now through February 16th at the Bootleg Theatre, is one of those shows. After being developed by the Ensemble Studio Theatre as part of EST/LA’s Winterfest, Day Trader was work-shopped at the HotCity Threatre in St. Louis MO and has now been brought to the Bootleg Theatre for a limited run.
The story centers around Ron (Danton Stone), a struggling comedy writer and his daughter Juliana (Brigid Fleming). Ron lives in a difficult world because he’s stuck in perhaps the most dangerous place. The mundane. A lifeless marriage and a monotonous existence. His only real joy is taking care of his high school aged daughter, who herself is struggling to deal with the day to day delirium of just being a modern teenager. Ron develops a plan to put his life in the fast lane and that’s when his REAL problems begin.
To delve deeply into the plot would be to rob the reader of it’s many twists and turns but it suffices to say that I found myself picking my jaw up off the ground at least half a dozen times, during the performance. Danton Stone is very effective at showing the audience a confused yet kindhearted man with moral conflicts and has great chemistry with Phil (Tim Meinelschmidt), his slightly more colorful best friend. Brigid Fleming as Juliana and Murielle Zucker as Bridget both give commanding performances, as well but the biggest star of this show is it’s writer, Eric Rudnick. Mr. Rudnick has written a piece that takes the audience on a true adventure. Though I wouldn’t classify Day Trader as a mystery, it’s subtle plot twists are directly on par with any good Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie story. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself thinking “What, THAT happened?” and “Oh, he DIDN’T!” during the performance. And isn’t that what great theatre is? An engaged experience?
It’s clear that director Steven Williford understands that this isn’t the type of show that benefits from a lot of garish distraction. The words and plot speak volumes. He allows his actors to be free and simply be instruments of communication, rather than just bodies, telling a story. Yes, the show could still use some
tightening. I would have liked to see less exposition in the early scenes but about 15 minutes in, the ball really starts to roll and the audience is hooked. The video backdrop and voice overs provide a colorful canvas on which to tell the “story within a story” during the scene changes. The costumes work well and the sound design is perfectly understated.
Set design is minimal, as it should be in a show with such twists. The focus should be on the story, not the set. The scene changes are crafted effectively by having members of the stage crew (all listed in the program as “Koken”) actually sit on the side of the stage, during most of the scenes. Though this sounds like something that might distract from the performance, in this case it actually encouraged higher caliber performances, as it most likely allowed the actors to stay in character, due to the swift change in scenery. All changes are punctuated with a talented live drummer (Josh Imlay) situated on the back corner of the stage, to set the mood for the upcoming scene.
Nestled in the heart of Downtown LA, the Bootleg Theatre provides the perfect location and backdrop for this world premier. Composed of four large rooms with everything from live music to theatre to everything in between, it’s rustic ambiance only enhances this roller coaster of a story.
Day Trader is a prime example of why Los Angeles is now a driving force in new play development. A world premiere show, done in a black box theatre, that totally enraptures. Go see Day Trader and see it soon. But see it with an open mind and don’t try to guess where the story is going. You’ll never get it right. Just allow it to capture you and take you on a ride. You’re guaranteed to have a Los Angeles theatre experience that will stay with you for a long time to come and you’ll find yourself asking yourself many questions as you exit the theatre. The biggest of which will probably be, “Why didn’t I see this sooner?”
by Eric Rudnick
Directed by Steven Williford
Cast: Brighid Fleming, Tim Meinelschmidt, Danton Stone and Murielle Zucker
With: Dianna Aguilar, Victoria Hannath & Tymika Spiller
Set by Stephen Gifford
Lights by Jared A. Sayeg
Costumes by Michele Young
Projections by Adam Flemming
Sound by Ivan Robles
Stage Managed by Ash Nichols
Asst Stage Managed by Madison-Margaret Huckaby
Thursday, Friday and Saturdays at 7pm; Sundays at 2pm
Now – February 16, 2014
2220 Beverly Blvd. LA 90057
Thespian Thoughts is a theatre review article on Actors Entertainment, a channel on the Actors Podcast Network, a Pepper Jay Production.