‘When Wrong Is Right:’ Theatre Review

When I first heard that When Wrong Is Right, now playing at the Eclectic Company Theatre in Valley Village, CA, involved a dance marathon, my thoughts immediately went to the movie, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Indeed, this play and that film have a lot in common. They’re both set during the Great Depression, and both stories have an air of hopelessness and despair. When Wrong Is Right, however, uses those elements to weave a very different kind of story.

Dr. James King (Jacques Freydont) is a dentist, surgeon, priest, radio personality, and all-around fraud. While claiming to be a good man, looking out for the best interests of his patients, it’s clear the only thing he cares about is wringing every cent from them that he possibly can.

His latest gimmick is “goat gonad surgery,” which involves restoring lost male potency and is exactly as horrifying as it sounds. His first patient for this radical new surgery is wealthy mob boss Bonny Peach (Thomas Prosser, who also wrote and directed the play), who hopes that King can save his marriage, as well as his soul, by taking Peach’s confession (and charging him per sin).

At the same time that all of this is going on, King has decided to host a dance marathon. This is where the hopelessness and despair come into play. A variety of colorful characters show up, hoping to win big money during difficult times. Instead, as the weeks drag on, they risk losing their sanity, their health, and perhaps even their very lives, all for the entertainment of a group of strangers, listening to them on the radio.

In this play, Thomas Prosser seeks to examine the difference between what’s morally right and what’s merely allowed. The dance marathon is 100% legal, but also an almost unfathomable moral abomination. Everything James King does likewise treads a thin line between in terms of the law, as he exploits everyone he comes across, in any way he can. Bonny Peach, on the other hand, has done plenty of things that are clearly against the law, but hopes that by paying King to absolve him, he won’t have to answer for what he’s done in the hereafter.

One of the major appeals of this play is the assortment of colorful characters that I mentioned earlier. The standout performance is Jacques Freydont as King, the man you love to hate. Then, there’s Stephen Loftin as Shipwreck Shannon, a daring adventurer whom you can’t help but like, even though it’s clear every word out of his mouth is a lie.

There’s also the tough airplane pilot Anna Preakness (Britney Levine), wealthy British aristocrat Stephan Rutherford III (Pantelis Kodogiannis when I saw it, though he alternates with Rick Barreras), his dance partner and secret lover Roxie Blue (Jessicah Neufeld), and plenty of others. The story is definitely an ensemble piece, ever switching back and forth between these dance contestants and slowly peeling back the layers of their lives, histories, and motivations.

This play is sometimes woefully depressing, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, and sometimes both simultaneously. Even at its lowest points, though, there’s an underlying glimmer of hope. All in all, it’s a fascinating and compelling story, and you’d do well to check it out.

When Wrong Is Right runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. through May 7th at the Eclectic Company Theatre at 5312 Laurel Canyon Blvd., Valley Village, CA 91607. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased here. 20% of the box office will be donated to the ACLU.

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