Monday, February 11, 2008


By Don Cummings

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Semifinalist for the 2008 Playwrights Conference at The Euguene O'Neill Theater Center.


LA WEEKLY GO by Sandra Ross

LASTAGESCENE.COM by Steven Stanley




Grigware Talks Theatre Interview

February 22 - March 29
Fridays & Saturdays @ 8 PM
Sundays @ 3 PM (No Shows on 2/24 & 3/23)
The Chandler Studio Theatre
12443 Chandler Boulevard, North Hollywood CA 91607
Five Blocks West of Laurel Canyon, just East of Whitsett. Free Plentiful Parking



The Production Company at The Chandler Studio Theatre

A Good Smoke: My Space

GO Writer-director Don Cummings adeptly captures the chaos enveloping a collapsing family, in his dark one-act comedy. Cummings has a gift for the pointed barb, and some of the dialogue is hilarious, despite the situation's gravity. His direction is as fast-paced as the dialogue, and Gruen delivers a tremendous performance as a deceptive, manipulative drug addict. --Sandra Ross, LA Weekly

We're all addicts, admits Don Cummings' cheerfully rude comedy, "A Good Smoke," whether it's momma, nicotine or self righteousness, there's no limping through life without a crutch. It's tough to mine much that's new in the dysfunctional family genre, but Cummings has a feel for desperation, and he gives each of the play's women her own awful, nakedly human monologue. As the mother from hell, Gruen admirably holds her ground, refusing to give into sitcom cuteness or ask for our sympathy.-- Charlotte Stoudt, Los Angeles Times

Don Cummings’ darkly funny A Good Smoke could just as easily be titled Life
With The Mother From Hell, but that might just be the teensiest bit off-putting.
After all, how many of us would choose to spend an hour and a half with one
of the most unrelentingly angry women ever put on a stage? But rest assured,
on opening night the Chandler Theatre was filled with uproarious laughter,
and I was among those who laughed the loudest. Black as the comedy in as
A Good Smoke is, this is a very funny comedy indeed.

Much of the humor is in the performance of lines that, in and of themselves, seem to be unlikely laugh-getters. Cummings’ script is so devilishly clever that it doesn't
need “jokes,” though lines like “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice,” are
indeed funny.

Under Cummings’ skillful direction, Barbara Gruen (Mom) gives one of the most
furious, fearless, and physically fatiguing performances I’ve ever witnessed.
Seething with constant anger, Gruen never once gives in to the temptation
to soften Mom, making her all the funnier, in a perversely satisfying way.
Gruen’s is a must-be-seen performance, never more so than in the 10-minute
phone rant she delivers full force, her words getting steadily louder and faster
and crazier. You sit there listening, mouth agape, and laughing as you cringe,
half of you wanting for her to just shut up, and the other half waiting to see
what will pop out of her mouth next.

Henry Gummer’s likeable persona works to make Dave the most sympathetic character, and once again those “sad but sparkling eyes” speak volumes. Blake Anthony does deliciously deadpan work as Joe, and Dennis Delsing is a hoot as Dad (and plays “funny drunk” just about as well as I’ve ever seen it done). Madelynn Fattibene, is outstanding at showing the unremittingly hangdog Susan’s real pain and suffering. Finally, Mary McBride appears all too briefly as Susan’s mother-in-law Betty, as relentlessly cheerful as Susan is morose.

Cummings, who also penned the very funny The Fat Of The Land, clearly understands the fine line between comedy and tragedy, and A Good Smoke walks that line to often side-splitting results. This is a play worth seeing, and one which will certainly provoke much post-curtain discussion.

August Viverito’s set and lighting design make excellent use of The Chandler
Theatre’s long, narrow space, with lighting and sound (designed by Bob
Blackburn) allowing for quick set changes, from living room, to hospital room, to
bar. Zoe Buck’s costumes are also very good.

A Good Smoke is “smoking-good” fun. Who would have thought that spending an hour and a half with “the mother from hell” would prove so entertaining?

--Steven Stanley, LA

This family’s entrapment is tragic, but not without many comic undertones, as dysfunction and dark humor go hand in hand. Everyone can relate to at least one problem, and the familial plight is so pathetic at times, especially Joyce’s, that laughter seems a better medicine than tears. Cummings does well to cut away from the mother’s agonizing abuse and intersperses scenes that serve as comic relief. The ensemble is solid. Gruen is outstanding in her brutally honest portrayal. Her lonely conversation on a cell phone to a voice machine as she cleans the house at 5am is monumentally engrossing. Her ferocious attack on lines like “Pull it together, Susan!” is drop dead hilarious. Gummer lends the complicated Dave, who is the spokesman for the playwright, a dynamic focus and compassionate sensitivity. Anthony adds the right touch of bewilderment, and Fattibene is gutwrenching in her deep need to mother her newborn. Delsing creates an appropriate wimp of an alcoholic husband, and Mary McBride adds color as the caring, yet “all business” mother-in-law.
Cummings stages the piece on the small Chandler stage with the utmost dexterity. The title A Good Smoke refers to the family’s addiction to cigarettes, and at play’s end, the bleak, silent freeze-frame portrait of the typical American dysfunctional family lighting up makes us simultaneously laugh and cry.

5 out of 5 stars – GRIGWARE TALKS THEATRE by Don Grigware



The Production Company at The Chandler Studio Theatre

A Good Smoke: My Space


Written and Directed by Don Cummings

Featuring: Henry Gummer, Barbara Gruen, Madelynn Fattibene, Blake Anthony, Dennis Delsing & Mary McBride

Assistant Director: Carla Barnett
Set and Lighting Design: August Viverito
Costumes: Zoe Buck
Sound Design: Bob Blackburn
Produced by August Viverito & T L Kolman



Todd HellsKitchen said...

Mr. Gummer was so good in the NYC reading a few years back. I'm sure he'll be terrific in this full production!

Don Cummings said...

Actually, Henry was in The Fat of the Land Reading... And he was terrific in that-----