It’s not completely clear whether Mercury is in retrograde during the timeframe of Mercury, a thrills-and-chills play by Steve Yockey getting its west coast premiere at The Road Theatre. But the hints are everywhere, starting with the pre-show trigger warnings.
Like a planet seeming to spin backwards, Mercury is disorienting but riveting to follow because its characters and situations are unpredictable. The stage has a full-size turntable that’s regularly turned to reveal the next jaw-dropping development.
In Mercury, neighbors who live on the outskirts of Portland grapple with typical neighborly issues, like thin walls and missing pets, but never in expected ways. Tensions escalate, and those who take matters into their own hands unleash even less predictable consequences.
Director Ann Hearn Tobolowsky goes all in on the escalating developments. (So as to avoid spoilers, I’m being deliberately vague about what those developments are.) Next-door neighbors Pamela (Meeghan Holaway) and Heather (Andrea Flowers) are a whirlwind of conflicted emotions; Pamela is as prickly as the cacti collection she has purchased, while Heather seems helpless yet finds a unique way to answer the question, “How do you solve a problem like Pamela?”
Olive (Christina Carlisi) lives upstairs from Nick (Justin Lawrence Barnes) and Brian (Danny Lee Gomez) and complains about the noise from above. She has a favorite of the two of them and deems the other a problem that she sets out to solve with the help of a shopkeeper, Alicia (Gloria Ines).
Alicia has a loud and scratchy intercom system that’s a hotline to her possibly abusive boyfriend Sam (Billy Baker); the noise coming through it unnerves her store’s patrons. But they buy from her anyway because her unique items solve pesky neighbor problems. Ines and Baker add quirky energy and power to Mercury.
While shocking in places, with violent and bloody situations, partial nudity and flashing lights, Mercury is at its core a most satisfying moral tale. Blood goes down smoothly when served with a dose of humor and an ending where comeuppance is the dessert.
Mercury runs through Feb. 18 at The Road Theatre, 10747 Magnolia Blvd. in North Hollywood. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $39 ($15 for seniors) at www.roadtheatre.org.