by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

In Tango it has been said that despite the sensuality of the movements, all the bravado, the steps, the music and technicality that is housed in the study and performance of the art, the dance itself, really happens in the pause.

Such a statement can be said about Inland Empress, the new play now showing at the Lounge Theatre on Hollywood Theatre Row, by Tom Cavanaugh.

The mind of Cavanaugh is so detailed that at worst, embodying tragedy born of legitimate real life experience within a heightened theatrical fiction is not such an easy affair.  Inland Empress is so jammed packed with hyper-paced direction and extenuating threads, that the audience barely has time to breathe, mostly gasping for air throughout.  But when it does finally sit still, it lands.

There is a payoff in the quieter moments that arrives smack in the middle, which although doesn’t entirely cure the  frenzy of this “truth is greater than fiction” tale, but is thoroughly refreshing.

And given the evolution of Cavanaugh since his 2014 Hollywood Fringe debut, Inland Empress is mostly a departure, from his earlier black box, fourth wall, monologue style of writing.  The repartee of dialog is often “hysterical” but it mostly serves the meth storyline and sometimes the characters.

It cannot be overlooked, however that there is an unevenness in the symmetry of acting styles on stage and the overwhelmingly fast clip, which satisfy the length of the play and enhances the emotional content, but often gets in the way.  While the story is grounded in all the action, what is occasionally lost is critical and that is the relationships.

It is not until all the physical “stuff” and occasional awkward stage direction, is shorn away, that this piece reaches a crest and also manages to justify a lightning finale.

Never-the-less, there is something here.  Cavanaugh has written a larger than life narrative based upon real events, persons and personal relationships and that part of it sounds loudly clear. 

What’s most interesting here is witnessing Cavanaugh‘s development as a playwright, moving carefully from a short storytelling format to full length narrative.  

Heading up the cast of Inland Empress is veteran performer Lily Knight, who has appeared in films (Touch, The Artist, Dahmer, AI), TV shows (American Crime, Grey’s Anatomy, Castle, True Blood) and countless stage productions on Broadway and Off Broadway. Ms. Knight pulls this entire show to center merely by walking on stage and speaking (incredible!) and allows the rest of the cast, McCready Baker, Di Koob, Monica Martin, Jeffrey Wylie and Alexa Yeames a lot of room to explore. 

Inland EmpressInland Empress

Written by: Tom Cavanaugh

Directed by: Jessica Hanna

Produced by: Mutant Collective in association with Theatre Planners 

Synopsis:

Returning home from a seven-year prison stint, Louise finds she’s lost her place as matriarch of the family, and boss of the family business. Running meth on a mostly defunct horse ranch seemed like the perfect setup. As Louise has come back from prison a very different woman, she now wants to change things—make them better for the sister and three nieces she’s done nothing but scam, lie and corrupt their whole lives. What she didn’t count on was that they were doing just fine without her. At least, that’s what they all want to believe.