Home #Hwoodtimes A FROGGY BECOMES: Becky Wahlstrom’s Comedic Dive in Adolescent Angst in the...

A FROGGY BECOMES: Becky Wahlstrom’s Comedic Dive in Adolescent Angst in the 1980s

Robert St. Martin

Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 03/16/2024

An entertaining theatrical experience is a new play at Atwater Village Theatre entitled A Froggy Becomes presented by the Open Fist Theatre Company. Written by Becky WahlstromA Froggy Becomes attempts to capture the experience of being a 7th-grade teenager in middle school in the 1980s when Madonna was the rage in an era long before cell phones and the internet. A Froggy Becomes is a comedy and memory play about a seventh grader with cruel friends, an ogre for a father, and a science project about the life cycle of a frog that has gone topsy-turvy.

The heroine of the tale, Bumpy Diggs, was born from Wahlstrom’s experiences. She came across a box of cassette tapes, including one that was unmarked. When she played it, she discovered it was her younger self treating the cassette tape as a diary. Waldstrom’s play is nostalgic and filled with a sense of loss for an era seemingly distant in time now – the 1980s. Amidst the sense of defeat with the collapse of a small theatre in L.A. intensified by COVID, this play seems full of hope for looking forward and enduring despite the challenges of life. A Froggy Becomes opened March 9 and runs through April 13 at Atwater Village Theatre.

The tale is told from the perspective of Bumpy (played by Sandra Kate Burck). She’s on the “weird” side and is trying to figure out how to survive the horrors of middle school while surrounded by flying priests, Satan worshippers, beer, Doritos, and the cult of Madonna. While the characters are in middle school, the play is for grown-ups and the actors are adults. As playwright Becky Waldstrom explained in an interview, “This person was so intense and so needing to get her secret life off her chest – I just wanted to play that part, to play that character,” Wahlstrom says. “I wrote an eight-minute monologue, and it lived like that until I busted it out into a full-blown play around 2018.”

Bumpy (Sandra Kate Burck) Finally Gets A Kiss From Alan (Tom Sys)

The play is directed by Pat Town who later explained: “You know the show is not going to be realistic, it’s going to be another world. “You’re seeing the world through the eyes of this seventh-grade girl who is trying very hard to understand it and do her best.” When Towne read the script, he immediately knew how the play should look and sound. He says the elements in it – such as the father being a 7-foot ogre puppet – gave him a clear sense of the style. Hence, the production is as quirky as the imagination of a 7th-grade teenage girl. “There are a lot of characters talking about sex, but they really have no idea what they’re talking about. It comes from that seventh-grade innocence of just trying to explore and understand rather than a teenage sensibility of sensuality and wanting to get it on.”

Ensemble Of A Froggie Becomes Featuring Sandra Kate Burck As Bumpy & Peter Breitmayer As Her Ogre Father

The playwright Wahlstrom says A Froggy Becomes lives in that space of adolescence where you discover for the first time that others aren’t really driving your life, or if they are, they aren’t doing it very well. It’s a moment that often comes earlier, Wahlstrom says, for children in a dysfunctional family or with alcoholic parents. It’s why she latched on to the metaphor of a science fair project using tadpoles who are also going through puberty. Adults can relate to the emotional journey of the main character Bumpy.

Bumpy (Sandra Kate Burke) Imagining Taking Out Her Love Interest Alan (Tom Sys), With Deandra Bernardo, Jeremy Guskin & Ana Ida

A tale for grownups, A Froggy Becomes is written from a middle schooler’s perspective. The world seems stacked against Bumpy, but her fight for self-determination inspires us to celebrate our own awkwardness and failures. Bumpy has her own way of dealing with the adult world – and her own little escape pad in the woods where she feels she can control her destiny.

A credit to the interesting staging of the play by director Pat Towne who chose to portray Bumpy’s alcoholic father as a 7-foot-tall ogre (played by Peter Breitmayer) and has the cast move around the stage with such ease for the many short scenes. Sandra Kate Burck is a wonder as the 7th-grader with braces and a real fear of kissing a boy named Pat (Kyle Tomlin) with green teeth but inspired to dream of a life beyond the limitations of her dysfunctional family. Kyra Grace plays Karen, the wannabe Madonna blonde of the 7th grade who seems to excel at everything and manages to claim the most popular boy as her boyfriend.

Michael Lanaham As Father Angelo, The Priest Having An Affair With Becky’s Mother (Johanna McKay)

Johanna McKay places Bumpy’s mother who dotes on the local Catholic priest Father Angelo (Michael Lanaham) with whom she is having an illicit affair. Bumpy keeps finding out more about their affair as the story progresses and finally confronts the priest who denies the whole thing. Bumpy’s ogre father (Peter Beitmayer) occasionally appears on the scene at home after his work, demanding beers and generally being as gross as possible. Bradley Sharper plays Pauly, Bumpy’s older brother, who is into Satanic rituals and offers little support for his younger sister. Tom Sys plays Alan, the tall martial arts classmate who is supposed to go out with Karen, but whom Bumpy imagines kissing at her secret hide-away. The cast includes Carmella Jenkins, Deandra Bernardo, and Ana Ida.

Bumpy’s Ogre Father (Peter Breitmayer) Supported By Carmella Jenkins, Deandra Bernardo & Ana Ida, With Pauly (Bradley Shaper) At Right

A Froggy Becomes runs through April 13, with performances taking place on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. General admission to all performances is $30, with $25 tickets available to seniors and veterans, and $20 tickets available to those under 30 years of age. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. To purchase tickets and for more information call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.