Site specific theater can increase the inherent pleasure of a theatrical production exponentially. Some productions that have had the greatest impact on me were performed in a New York City storefront; outdoors while listening to early Walkmans in Marin County; in an abandoned department store, made up to be a cosmetics counter in San Francisco; and a beauty salon in Los Angeles. Now, the West Coast premiere of Alex Goldberg's haunting and very well-conceived drama It Is Done, running in the upstairs bar at the Pig N' Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard, can join that august list of nontraditional top shows.
The charming, intimate bar is adapted to a rundown way station 90 miles from anything, run by a slovenly owner, Hank (Michael McCartney), who is far too talkative and proud of his masturbatory habits for miserable, introspective loner Jonas (Andre Tenerelli). Jonas, the sole customer, is trapped due to a gale force dust storm and his inability to sleep makes him seem even more vulnerable. And then, the door flies open and we enter another world, or more accurately, another world enters us. Ruby (Catia Ojeda) at first seems an intelligent, attractive and gregarious professional woman with a mysterious past that neither man can guess. Goldberg gradually reveals that the alluring, cagey Ruby is a female incarnation of the Devil and has come for Jonas, who perpetrated a murderous crime in his youth.
When Hank tragically puts the moves on his wily female customer, not knowing her real purpose, the whip-smart banter of Goldberg shifts to a revelation of Ruby's unearthly powers. With lighting that moves and sound that represents clattering alcohol bottles, director (and co-A.D. at the Theatre at Boston Court) Michael Michetti turns the bar into a most stunning depiction of an underworld mandated death sentence. McCartney humorously balances his incorrigibility with boyish irresponsiblity. Tenerelli ably seems terrified as the captured prey. And this is a great vehicle for Ojeda. She repeats her role from the New York production at the Mean Fiddler Bar and Grill. Ojeda demands attention from the silent denizens of the bar who as audience watch her chipper flirtatiousness morph into a fury and cruel logic that are breathtaking.
The use of an old jukebox with calculated selections from Hank Williams and Jon Campbell's, er, hellacious wind sound design top off this welcome addition to terrific theater staged without a theater.