Walking in Space | World Premiere at Theatre West

World premiere of ‘Walking in Space’ is affectionate, true story of one family’s struggle to be happy

PHOTO: Garry Michael Kluger | The South Pasadenan | “The Silberman Family” Seated: Kathi Barnes (“Francine”); Rear: Cecil Jennings (“Kirby”), Mary Elisabeth Somers (“Patti”), Hogan Mason (“Matthew”), Liv Denevi (“Lori”).

Leo Tolstoy once said that all happy families are alike — but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Sometimes they’re both. Theatre West presents the world premiere of Walking in Space by Garry Michael Kluger, the true story of one family’s determination to be happy. The five-week run, directed by Arden Teresa Lewis, opens September 8, with performances continuing at Theatre West through October 8.

In 1972, there was no Betty Ford Clinic. When the prescription drug-addicted, single mother of an upper-middle class Jewish family in suburban Baltimore finally hits rock-bottom, it falls on her children to take control. Inspired by true events, this fictionalized, autobiographical tragicomedy is an affectionate portrait of four siblings who arm themselves with fierce tenacity, good humor, and their love for one another to save their mother — and themselves.

“When I was in high school, my mother was a drug addict,” says Kluger matter-of-factly. “She was hiding it, but we all knew. The doctors gave her morphine when my oldest brother was born. After that, there was an endless supply of barbiturates. By the time I was a teenager, we were four kids under the age of 21 with no support. Our coping mechanism was humor.”

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PHOTO: The real-life Kluger family c. 1960
Photo courtesy of playwright
Garry Michael Kluger, far right | The South Pasadenan

“These kids are smart, funny and highly competitive, and that’s how they survive,” says Lewis. “Self-deprecation, zingers and repartee carry them through. The curtains are drawn. No one can come in. No one can know their mother is like this. How do you live in a neighborhood for years and be under the influence while raising four kids and nobody knows? As long as she can function, even barely, no one has to puncture the veneer.”

Members of the “Silberman” family at Theatre West include Mary Elisabeth Somers as Patti, Cecil Jennings as Kirby, Hogan Mason as Matthew and Liv Denevi as Lori. Kathie Barnes takes on the role of their single, twice-divorced mother, Francine. Also in the cast are Andrew Cereghino as Keith Schwartz, Patti’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, and David Mingrino as Dr. Collar, the family physician.

The creative team features scenic designer Ernest McDaniel and lighting designer Malcolm Wilson. In addition to directing, Lewis takes on costume design. The assistant director is Amelia Vargas and the production stage manager is Dillon Mount. Meg Lin produces for Theatre West. Walking in Space is supported by the L.A. County Department of Arts and Culture as part of Creative Recovery L.A., an initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan.

Established in 1962, Theatre West is celebrating its 61st year as the oldest continually running professional theater company in the City of Los Angeles. A membership collective of actors, playwrights, directors and technicians, Theatre West’s alumni members include Ray Bradbury, Beau Bridges, Richard Dreyfuss, Sally Field, Betty Garrett, Martin Landau, Lee Meriwether, Jack Nicholson, Carroll O’Connor, Sherwood Schwartz, Joyce Van Patton and Paul Winfield. Theatre West has produced more than 300 plays and musicals; of these plays, nearly 70% are original works developed in its workshops, and many have led to Broadway, regional tours and feature films, including A Bronx Tale by Chazz Palminteri, A Very Brady Musical by Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber, and, most recently, Our Man in Santiago by Mark Wilding which transferred to off-Broadway.

Walking in Space runs from September 8 through October 8, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. The performance on Friday, Sept. 29 will be ASL interpreted, and the performance on Sunday, Oct. 1 will be sensory-friendly. Tickets are $35 with online advance purchase, or $40 at the door, with $30 tickets available to students, veterans and members of the military. Walking in Space features adult content and is recommended for mature audiences ages 14 and up.

Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West in Los Angeles, CA 90068 (across the street from Universal CityWalk, between Barham and Lankershim); metered street parking available, and there is a paid lot ($10 cash only) across the street from the theater.

For reservations and information, call (323) 851-7977 or go to TheatreWest.org.