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Hollywood Fringe Festival: Shiny White Diamonds

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From L to R: Jemima (Natalie Miston), Dummy (Kat Valentina), and Travis (Russell Sams) in 'Shiny White Diamonds.'


From L to R: Jemima (Natalie Miston), Dummy (Kat Valentina), and Travis (Russell Sams) in 'Shiny White Diamonds.'
- by Stephanie Taylor for LAist

If you’re wondering what happens when an AWOL soldier, his agoraphobic sister, a strung-out artist/socialite, and a life-sized voodoo doll combine, look no further.

The Fringe (and world) premiere of L.A.-based Australian playwright Sarah Doyle's Shiny White Diamonds borrows elements from the theater of the absurd to boldly and frankly explore the nature of reality and sanity while maintaining a caustic wit.

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Slowly acquiring dementia, Jemima (Natalie Miston) lives alone with no other companionship than her life-size doll Dummy (Kat Valentina), a security blanket for a woman who ventures into public merely once a week for her routine purchase of Pantene from the grocery store. That is, until her brother Travis (Russell Sams) appears mysteriously after a decade-long separation. A wanted man, Travis promptly begins a descent into alcoholism, and then one day a drunken beauty queen, Claudia (Kym Jackson) knocks on the door looking to make a phone call. Simultaneously repulsed and fascinated by the misfits she has stumbled upon, she becomes a regular fixture in the siblings’ lives, enticing Jemima out of the house but begging her to bring Dummy along. Beguiled but hardly trusting, both siblings fall prey to Claudia’s charms to varying results.

As Jemima’s dementia increases, the reality of this tentative world grows hazier and hazier. Claudia, determined to achieve lasting greatness as a multimedia artist, attempts to expose the siblings’ secrets with shocking results.

A metaphysical paradox, Shiny White Diamonds calls into question the accuracy of human memory while all the time endowing it with a damning potency. Jemima’s self is obstructed by an opaque veil of what she thinks has occurred, concealing the ultimate reality from herself, her world and the audience.

Sams and Jackson both give solid, albeit uninspired, performances, but Miston’s ethereal Jemima tersely captures the childlike innocence of insanity with a skilled pathos. But Valentina’s Dummy manages to be simultaneously funny and spooky, proving the significance of physical characters.

Predicated by workshops in Australia, New York and London, Shiny White Diamonds came to Doyle while living in New York City in 2005, inspired by a “general populus equally as materialistic as it was neurotic.” Doyle was initially concerned how to create a character arc for a stuffed toy, a feat she has gone on to accomplish quite adeptly. Shiny White Diamonds embodies the spirit of the Fringe in its quirky willingness to ask questions and refuse to provide platitudes as answers.

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Tickets are $8. Remaining performances: tonight @ 10 pm and Fri., June 25 @ 7:30 pm. Fringe Central (Theatre of Arts @ 1625 North Las Palmas).