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Theater review: Las Vegas Little Theatre’s ‘Spearminted’

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Erin Marie Sullivan inhabits her character with absolute commitment.
Jacob Coakley

The Details

Spearminted
Through May 13; Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m.; $15; 18+
Las Vegas Little Theatre’s Fischer Black Box, 362-7996
Three stars

Spearminted, by Erica Griffin—winner of the Las Vegas Little Theatre’s New Works Competition, and playing there through May 13—starts promisingly, but ultimately feels unfinished and manipulative.

An opening dance number introduces us to our main characters: Stripper Piph (short for Epiphany, played by Erin Marie Sullivan) swings on a pole and grinds on an audience member while Eleven, played by Mario Mendez, twirls a taco sign. And both work it hard. Sullivan is amazing on the pole, and Mendez has definitely been practicing his sign-twirling tricks. It’s exciting, energetic and a unique vision … and then all that energy melts away in an overlong, overlapping monologue scene in which the actors talk with unseen characters. This pattern repeats throughout the play—flashes of a genuine quirky sensibility get buried in scenes that take too long to hit their mark and meander too far afield. At one point Eleven mutters about “digressing again,” and I have to agree.

In the second act, things get more intense as Piph and Eleven get closer—but the emotional fireworks don’t add up the way Griffin wants them to. Character turns seem disjointed and unmotivated, even as they’re played with absolute commitment by Sullivan and Mendez. Sullivan, in particular, does a great job with the left turns the play takes, inhabiting her character with vulnerability and absolute commitment. The problem—for both actors—is a final, sudden, shocking twist, that strips off layers of Eleven to reveal a new, almost entirely different character underneath. But this reveal, while written for maximum dramatic effect, doesn’t feel surprising or inevitable. It feels manipulative, the work of an author tweaking things for maximum “twist” impact. Rather than coming as a surprising but inevitable destiny, the twist robs the play of the tension that had been building.

There’s much to applaud in this play: vivid characters, a genuine Las Vegas vibe, off-kilter humor. But the promise and menace of the story get lost along the way.

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