by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday September 28, 2015

Ericka Kreutz, Tony DeCarlo and Doug Sutherland
Ericka Kreutz, Tony DeCarlo and Doug Sutherland  (Source:Jeff Galfer)

What a true kick-in-the-pants is this world premiere comedy, "ICU," by Fielding Edlow. Under Brian Schnipper's astute direction, her farce about a horrible family having to gather at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital's ICU ward as their adult son has collapsed from excessive drinking and drugging, makes potent points about family and adult responsibilities while the audience sits there, laughing and shivering. Jewish, they play out certain negative stereotypes about neurosis, self-and-outer-directed destructive behaviors, and unbridled lust.

Extremely funny (while you cringe, mind you), Schnipper's well-gathered cast plays it all to the hilt, eliciting groans and gasps over the characters' outrageous behaviors. Matriarch Ruth (fabulous veteran Caroline Aaron), a harridan; her put-upon and clueless husband Siggy (Joe Pacheco) who confuses everyone with his self-important dithering; daughter Jenna (Dagney Kerr) brittle and bitter; and, in a coma for the first act, son Brian (Tony DeCarlo), who as it turns out has never told his family about his boyfriend, Kevyn (Doug Southerland), who manages to come in unannounced and unwelcomed as three different persons.

Other characters are the put upon Nurse Kate (a slow burning Ericka Kreutz) and Dr. Gelber (Shaun Anthony), Brian's handsome doctor whom Ruth keeps trying to set up with her resentful daughter.

Edlow has a powerhouse hit here. Her characters grate on the nerves, but all the more to laugh at. And Schnipper's cast play it all up to the edge of insanity, lowering the volume and intensity just before going over the top. It's a lesson in comic acting to watch Aaron and company play up the (heightened) realities and allow us the audience to sit back and laugh.

The production is in a small, brightly-lit 45-seat theatre, along two walls, with the audience watching each other's reactions, contributing to the event. As nasty and tone-deaf as these folk are, we can recognize them from real life. And, trust it, enjoy them here as you definitely won't want to invite them to your next Thanksgiving or Seder dinner!

"ICU" plays through October 31 at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave, Los Angeles, 90039. For tickets and information, visit