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What They Have

Kate Robin's world premiere about two different couples in Hollywood is one of the best plays of the year. logo
Matt Letscher and Marin Hinkle
in What They Have
(© Henry DiRocco/SCR)
South Coast Repertory's latest world premiere, Kate Robin's What They Have, is a realistic, intelligent, heartfelt and heartbreaking look at two very different couples living in modern Hollywood. Featuring a quartet of sterling performances, this is one of the best plays of the year.

Connie and Jonas (Marin Hinkle and Matt Letscher) would seem to have it all. Connie produces successful movies; while Jonas writes a very successful television show. Married a year, they are expecting their first child. Connie, who comes from money, has stayed friends with Suzanne (Nancy Bell), a scholarship attendee she met at college, who has become an unsuccessful artist. Her husband of six years, Matt (Kevin Rahm), is a failed musician who now teaches guitar at a local school. They have also been unsuccessful at procreating, with miscarriage following miscarriage after very expensive in-vitro attempts.

At first, these couples seem mismatched as friends. Connie and Jonas are hooked on the realistic drama of Big Brother while Matt and Suzanne don't own a TV. Connie is never able to finish a sentence without Jonas refining it or giving it his special spin. Matt possesses a very dark temperament with his disbelief of God and his belief that everyone is born evil, while Suzanne possesses a sunny disposition despite all the negativity that surrounds her.

However, the tables are soon turned on these couples as fate intervenes and sends their lives spiraling out of control in different directions. Soon, such platitudes as "be careful what you wish for" hit this foursome hard.

Robin's writing is full of lovely little touches, and Chris Field's naturalistic direction is light and sure. Only near the very end of the play do the script and the direction veer off, causing the characters to become caricatures. Christopher Barreca's simple but effective turntable scenic design gives us the flavor of the have and have-nots that inhabit Los Angeles, while Lap-Chi Chu's lighting design is perfect.

Hinkle, who gives a particularly gut-wrenching performance, and Letscher walk a very fine line, showing us this loving couple through the many joys and sorrows that life throws at them. Rahm superbly essays an angry young man with a very dark and bleak outlook who slowly learns to refine his rougher edges, while Bell convincingly makes a naturalistic earth mother, possessed with that need to nurture, and trying to stay positive and helpful to all those around her even in the darkest hours.

With a little more polish, What They Have will become the must-have script for theaters across the country.

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