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Arts and Entertainment

Mommy Dearest: Munchausen by Proxy Takes to the Stage

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Samantha Sloyan and Andrea Hutchman | Courtesy of Buzzworks Theater Company

Mother daughter relationships are complicated to begin with. Power struggles, personality clashes, communication misfires. But add to that the question of whether mom once tried to kill her little girl, and things go quickly from complicated to depraved.

This twisted dynamic is the driving force behind Kim Porter's smart, suspenseful and unexpectedly funny play, Munched, currently being staged by Buzzworks Theater Company at the El Centro Theatre in Hollywood. Directed by Duane Daniels, the play follows the story of Katie Paxton (Samantha Sloyan) and Marybeth Paxton (Andrea Hutchman), a mother and her grown daughter, estranged since Marybeth was publicly accused of Munchausen by proxy when Katie was a child.

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Sloyan is riveting as Katie, using Porter's dark, dry humor to cover her pain and terror as she wades through the details of her past. As Marybeth, Hutchman is disarmingly likable, drawing the audience in to consider the central question of the play: is she guilty or not?

The lead actresses are joined by an outstanding cast of supporting characters. Peter Brietmeyer as "Man," or every male character, is by turns hilarious as a police officer and therapist, tormented as Katie's former doctor. Shirley Jordan ("Woman") brings depth and honesty to everyone from an attending nurse to a midwife.

What the play lacked in energy - and it did at times - it made up for in pace. Daniels' direction leads the actors on a perfectly choreographed dance through space and time, leading up to an unforgettable face-off at the end.

Munched has been extended through May 30.

El Centro Theatre
804 N. El Centro Ave.
Hollywood, CA 90036

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Thursday - Saturday, 8:00PM
Tickets: $25.00
Reservations: 323-960-5771 or www.plays411.com/munched