YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Theater Review : Rivera Makes a Volatile World in 'Each Day'


A la Gabriel Garcia Marquez, "Each Day Dies With Sleep" features strange acts of nature, such as oranges that turn black and spurt gasoline. But Jose Rivera's 1990 play takes its stately title from a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem and its darkly whimsical tone from Gregory Corso. And although Rivera bows to Marquez's magical realism in his use of exaggerated plot elements, the play is more overheated than magical.

Rivera creates a volatile universe in which a lot happens, but the play is repetitive and does not follow its own internal logic. While terrible things happen to his characters, nothing seems to really change. Our heroine, Nelly (Shawna Casey), transforms physically from a cowering, stuttering daughter into a confident wife, but even in her cowering state she already has the sharp tongue and spunk that she is supposed to grow into.

When her father calls her "pinhead," Nelly responds with "not pinhead." Her language problems seem like an affection and are easily fixed by her husband, who teaches her to form "I want to marry you" out of "want you, marry you." (Actually, her impediment seems modeled on Tarzan's.) The best that can be said of Casey's performance is that the actress appears to believe feverishly in a character that just doesn't add up.

While we can understand that Nelly might fall for the gigolo Johnny (Bernard White) in order to escape her father's home, why, for instance, does she remain fiercely faithful to this preening, vapid mechanic whose dream is to become a top model?

As if to camouflage certain logical or emotional inconsistencies, Rivera overloads the play with character details without illuminating the characters. For instance, Nelly's father Augie (Tomas Voth) is not simply macho, he has fathered 21 children and is sexually attracted to all of his daughters while still going out to bars and picking up two young women at a time.

Similarly, Johnny is so attractive that he is besieged by "an army of jealous husbands," yet his modeling career remains a joke. He courts Nelly after he has fathered children with several of her sisters without marrying any of them. Yet, Nelly--looking less than desirable in her half-buckled Ninja Turtle overalls--gives him one kiss and he wants to marry her.

"Each Day" has its moments. Voth is funny when he tries to drown out the sounds of his daughter's lovemaking by playing Bing Crosby's "Don't Fence Me In" at top volume. White is amusing when he explains his promiscuity with "What can I say? I love this family."

Set designer Dave Thayer fills the wide stage with the mess of Nelly's life. The high walls are covered in newspaper, spray painted with lines from the show such as "passion causes most of the misery in the world" and "I have a Walkman. I'm a survivor." Unfortunately, the play doesn't take us far beyond these slogans.

* "Each Day Dies With Sleep," Stella Adler Academy Theater, 6773 Hollywood Blvd. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 7 p.m. Indefinitely. $12. (213) 469-3942. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Shawna Casey: Nelly

Tomas Voth: Augie

Bernard White: Johnny

A Wilton Project production; producers Leslie Hope and Charlie Stratton. By Jose Rivera. Directed by Matthew Wilder. Sets by Dave Thayer. Lights by John Martin. Costumes by Jack Taggart. Sound by Bill Marrinson. Video technician Steve Queen. Stage manager Andrea Saraffian.

Los Angeles Times Articles