By Cynthia Citron

Imagine, if you will, six strong personalities stranded in a

Thank God It’s Friday pub while a hurricane rages outside.

The accompanying rain has flooded the streets, and all the

highways in this small Texas town have been closed.

So begins a play called “Elijah”, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the Biblical figure. Elijah is the name given to the hurricane that threatens this small town.

The town is so small, in fact, that its most prominent feature is the jail, where a child murderer is about to be put to death on this night.

Meanwhile, the restaurant section of TGIF is swarming with people who have come in seeking refuge from the hurricane and wanting food, which puts the owner, Lori (Kathleen Bailey), into a tizzy, since she is virtually alone in the building. Except for her 16-year-old niece, Ashley (Mackenzie Rickaby), whom she enlists as a temporary waitress. Ashley, who resents being asked to help, becomes a server who screws up everybody’s order and becomes the personal nemesis of Tim (Jesse Merrill), a belligerent lawyer who addresses everyone at the top of his lungs. He is there to picket the upcoming execution of the murderer, Keller, and totes a large sign demanding clemency.

This puts him in direct conflict with Patience (Elle Vernee), a woman who has arrived with a sign that vilifies Keller and claims that he deserves to be executed. Which introduces a heated philosophical (and humorous) argument with Tim about the morality of killing a human being, even if he is a convicted murderer.

And then there are the lovebirds, Greg and Dawn (Jordan Wall and Molly Gray), who hug and kiss and engage in small talk consisting mostly of non sequiturs.

Each of the participants is also dealing with personal problems. Greg is trying to get over his “addiction” to playing poker online. Tim, who is gay, decides that Ashley is a homophobe because she keeps not bringing him the Coke he ordered. And Dawn reveals that Keller, the child murderer, is her father, and engages in a moving soliloquy about him and her childhood, even though she has had no contact with him for 12 years. She has come to this town to say goodbye to him and to find closure. Which she does, unhappily, by phone.

“Elijah” was written by playwright Judith Leora and directed exquisitely by Maria Gobetti. This is the West Coast premiere of this gripping dramedy and it is definitely a Must See. Each of the players delivers a superb performance that is enhanced by the rich set design (with a full barroom that even includes two stained glass windows) created by Evan A. Bartoletti.

“Elijah” can be seen Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 4pm through December 15 at The Big Victory Theatre, 3326 West Victory Blvd. in Burbank. Call (818) 841-5421 or www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org for tickets.

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