Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Theater Review: A Froggy Becomes

Tom Sys and Sandra Kate Burck in A Froggy Becomes. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Remember seventh grade? The crushes, the confusion, the drama…

Playwright Becky Wahlstrom is clearly in touch with her inner middle schooler, and has translated tween life into a brand new memory-sparking show set in the 1980s, A Froggy Becomes. No matter how far back age 12 was for you, you’re sure to go there in your mind, from a seat in Open Fist Theatre Company’s cozy theater, to a soundtrack of Madonna, with a lump in your throat.

Deandra Bernardo, Sandra Kate Burck, Jeremy Guskin, Ana Id and Tom Sys in A Froggy Becomes. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Pigtailed Bumpy Diggs (Sandra Kate Burck) barrels through her very different worlds of school and home, a cyclone of energy and raw emotion. Navigating a looming science fair project, frenemies, boys and a bitter, widowed dad almost derails Bumpy, but her strength and wits pull her along.

Burck gives an exhaustingly physical performance, reminiscent of Gilda Radner’s Judy Miller. Her Bumpy is endearing, hilarious and heartbreaking. As with every child, she is the center of a universe she is only beginning to understand—but she is learning fast.

Burck is surrounded by a large cast of talented actors, including Deandra Bernardo as Tiffanny, Kyle Tomlin as Pat with the mossy teeth, Johanna McKay as Bumpy’s mother and Michael Lanahan as a priest Mom turns to for a little too much comfort. Director Pat Towne keeps the energy level high through clever choices that make the most of a sparse stage.

Michael Lanahan, Jeremy Guskin and Johanna McKay in A Froggy Becomes.. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Bumpy’s dad, played by Peter Breitmayer with a little help from some special effects, is both threatening and comic, a brilliant portrayal of an ogre as seen through a grieving child’s eyes. Having lost his wife, Bumpy’s dad has not risen to the occasion but instead has descended into fury and alcoholism. In her imagined conversation with her mother, Bumpy asks, “Why would you marry him?” The answer? “He was a carpenter and a tortured soul. But he wasn’t cut out to be a father.” Ah, the lessons learned too late, about the toll a poor choice in a co-parent can take on the co-created life.

Yet Bumpy is sure to prevail, with her zest for life and a winning spirit that can win any battle against demons. Her triumphant cry should be universal: “Not today, defeat!”

The confusing title A Froggy Becomes relates to Bumpy’s tadpole-based science fair project. It captures the awkwardness of growing up, overcoming the odds to become an adult while retaining—and celebrating—the innocence of childhood.


Open Fist Theatre Company’s A Froggy Becomes runs through April 13 at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $30, available here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }