Two obsessive linguists and a nine-year-old zealot meet head-on with the magnetic leader of an est-like group training seminar in Complete, a new, fast-paced comedy by Andrea Kuchlewska opening February 23 at the Matrix Theatre in West Hollywood.
Jennifer Chambers (Play Dates at the Asylum, The Muscles in Our Toesat the El Portal) directs the West Coast premiere, which stars MeredithBishop (L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Eleemosynary, four seasons on Nickelodeon's The Secret World of Alex Mack); Scott Kruse (South Street at the Pasadena Playhouse, When Garbo Talks at International City Theater), Scott Victor Nelson (Build at the Geffen Playhouse, narrator on TLC's documentary series My Crazy Obsession) and nine-year-oldHannah Victoria Stock (soon-to-be-released feature The Ganzfeld Experiment, L.A. Opera's The Two Foscari).
Complete is a comic, time-splitting wrangle over the power and perversion of language. When Eve (Bishop) finds out that Micah (Kruse) is doing "The Training," she risks their careers, their relationship and their safety to prove just how destructive the notion of self-creation can be.
"Complete is inspired by both the language of est and the scientific study of syntax and semantics," explained Kuchlewska in an interview. "I did theest training at age nine. The use of language in that subculture was specific and differed in important ways from the English I had been speaking up until then. This was a potent combination for me as a child-using language to empower myself, but also being confused at times by what I and others were saying. It forever changed the way I think and how I speak."
Developed by Werner Erhard, est is a system of experiential philosophy that was popular in the 1970s and '80s and was accused by some of being a cult. Inspired by her childhood experience and aided by the deeper understanding of language she gained as a linguistics major, Kuchlewska constructs a fictional "Training," a world in which phrases like "I intend to create a parking space" and "You can create yourself being any way you want to be" are normal statements, even in the mouth of a child.
As a graduate of and former coach at the Ford Institute for Transformational Training, Jennifer Chambers brings an insider's understanding to the project.
"There is a very specific language that the self-help industry uses, and it can be viewed as either very helpful or very manipulative," she says. "I want to go back and explore that world now that I have some distance from it."
A finalist for the Princess Grace Award, Complete was developed in the Z Magic Monday reading series at Magic Theatre in San Francisco, in the Bay Area Playwrights Festival and at The Z Space Studio, where Andrea Kuchlewska is an artist in residence. It was read at The Barrow Group Theatre Company in New York prior to a production at FringeNYC 2009, where it was labeled a "Critic's Pick" byBackstage and subsequently selected for the FringeNYC Encore Series.
Set design for Complete is by Joel Daavid; lighting design is by Michael Gend; costume design is by Sharell Martin; sound design is by John Zalewski; production stage manager is Laura Rin; casting is by Michael Donovan Casting; and Racquel Lehrman, Theatre Planners produces.
Andrea Kuchlewska is currently under commission at Women's Project where she is also an alumna of the 2010-2012 Playwrights Lab. Her other plays include Human Fruit Bowl (soloNOVA Arts Festival, NYC; Prague Fringe Festival, winner Creative Award for best production; Amsterdam Fringe Festival; Hong Kong Microfest) and the collaboratively created We Play for the Gods (Women's Project, NYC). Andrea's work has also been developed or produced by The Barrow Group and Safe Mode Productions (NYC) and in San Francisco at Z Space, The Marsh, Venue 9 and Climate Theatre, among others. Andrea has received a Theatre Bay Area CA$H Grant, the Tournesol Residency for Emerging Playwrights, and was a finalist for the Princess Grace Award. She has a BA in Linguistics from U.C. Santa Cruz and an MFA in Playwriting from San Francisco State University.
Jennifer Chambers directing credits include Play Dates at the Asylum Theatre (L.A. Times "Critic's Choice"); the world premiere of Stephen Belber's The Muscles in Our Toes at the El Portal; Yog Sothoth, The Third Best Debater and Here to Serve You at San Pedro's Little Fish Theatre; and Suzan Lori Park's 365 Play/365 Days at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. She has assisted Jonathan Moscone on Cal Shakespeare's production of Man and Superman and Liz Diamond on Catherine Treischman's Crooked at the Women's Project Theatre. She was the assistant director of the Piedmont Children's Theatre and has directed autobiographical theater pieces at the Living Arts Center in Berkeley, California. She is a professional actress who has performed on Broadway, has numerous regional credits, and has written and performed two autobiographical solo pieces, Choices at the Marsh Theatre and Mine at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has an undergraduate degree in theater arts from Northwestern University and a master's degree in counseling psychology with a concentration in drama therapy from The California Institute of Integral Studies.
Complete opens on February 23 and continues through March 30, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 7 pm, exceptSunday, February 24 which is @ 2 pm. Two low-priced preview performances take place on Thursday, February 21 and Friday, February 22 @ 8 pm. General admission is $25.00; full-time students with ID are $15; previews are $12.50. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046 (west of Stanley Ave., between Fairfax and La Brea). For reservations and information, call323-960-7822 or go to www.plays411.com/complete.