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Theater Review: Little Flower of East Orange Grows in Hollywood

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Stephen Adley Guirgis's The Little Flower of East Orange is a large, enjoyably sprawling play, containing multitudes of theatrical perspectives. For the most part it's a kitchen sink Irish-American family drama as related to us by Danny (Michael Friedman), a young man in and out of rehab whom we learn in the play's opening scene is presently serving a prison sentence. Yet intermittently through much of the first act, we also enter the mind of Danny's hospitalized, hallucination-prone mother Therese Marie (Melanie Jones).

When the action focuses on the hospital staff and law enforcement officials who hover around Theres Marie's bed, the play assumes the tone of a gritty realistic New York urban narrative. When Danny's sister, Justina (Marisa O'Brien) first takes the stage, however, her panicked phone call to Danny is a Hunter S. Thompson-esque outburst of content-free emotion, and later when she's visiting their mother in the hospital, she incongruously accompanies her own conversation on the violin.

Despite the play's tendency to stray in varying directions, the drama remains coherent and indeed powerfully moving thanks to an array of strong performances by an absolutely perfect cast, under the direction of Elephant Theatre Company Artistic Director David Fofi. (The production is a collaboration between the Elephant and New York's LAByrinth Theater Company, where Guirgis is a co-Artistic Director).