Malibu resident Rob Estes stars in the world premiere of “Mental,” a new musical comedy at the Edgemar Center for the Arts in Santa Monica.
By Carla Fischer / Special to The Malibu Times
Rob Estes, tall and handsome, with an easy smile, is well known for his starring role as Chris Lorenzo, the fast and loose Palm Beach homicide detective in TV’s cult favorite “Silk Stalkings.” He had jet-black hair in that role. Changing appearances is part of his job, and he’s now sporting sandy brown hair for his starring role in “Mental” as Jared Clutterbuck, son of Harry Clutterbuck played by Michael Bryan French, and Eloise Clutterbuck, played by Eileen Barnett, long-suffering wife and mother.
The musical comedy is the creation of Fiona Hogan and Courtney Kramer, good friends who found material for the show from their own lives and families. They created a book, original music and lyrics for the show that runs a gamut of styles from show to pop, rock to dance music to rhythm and blues. The story centers on the well-to-do Clutterbuck family, who are requested by Mona (Miranda Frigon), daughter and patient, to convene at a high-end retreat for a weekend of family therapy. Billed as the “perfect family,” they approach this experience reluctantly.
“As Jared, I’m the oldest of four kids, the closest to my father,” Estes said, explaining his role. “My fiancé died of ovarian cancer a year ago and this is my first shot back with my family.”
Estes, a divorced father of two, is familiar with the theme of “Mental” as he has been in therapy with his own family.
“It’s intense stuff when a therapist gets people in the group to open up their secrets. Now that’s cooking with TNT! That’s the juice of this piece,” Estes said of the play. “In the rehearsal process, I remind myself of that experience. It’s rare to see something that hits you at an emotional level and you find yourself laughing.”
Ryan Matthew plays Dr. Gary Pointer, the psychotherapist, as neurotic as his patients, and “hilarious,” Estes said. Father Harry, a controlling personality, worries about how much everything is costing him. The rest of the family consists of Sport (John Bobek), a ne’er-do-well son, sister Violet (Courtney Kramer), Siobhan (Christian Omari), Mona’s buddy, and Dean (Adam Simons), a male model who joins the group, which naturally seems to draw attention. Secrets get revealed and hopefully get resolved by the end of the weekend.
“The themes of ‘Mental’ are about different family dynamics and it’s very funny,” said Michelle Danner, director and co-founder of the Edgemar Center. “It really gets people thinking about communicating and not holding on to secrets for many years. There’s a universality about the piece in the sense that we can really relate to it, regardless of the fact, ‘I don’t have this father, I don’t have this mother,’ but I do in a way.
“I think ‘Mental’ has the potential to have families go back, through humor, to put their issues on the table instead of shoving them under the carpet.”
Estes, 43, was born in Norfolk, Va. on a Naval base. His father was serving in the Army when he moved to Santa Monica with his mother, where he attended the local high school. “I was an athlete,” Estes said. “We thought all the actors were wimps.
“But I bumped into acting doing the play ‘Streamers,’ which is an intense play, and pretty quickly fell in love with acting,” he said.
Estes went from studying at USC to working as an actor in “Days of Our Lives,” “Melrose Place” and “Silk Stalkings,” among other shows, and never stopped acting.
Estes met Danner 10 years ago when he began studying with well-known acting coach Larry Moss, with whom Danner teaches.
“We did the ‘Rose Tattoo,’ which had a great run for over a year. I would work with him on anything,” Danner said.
Her feature film directing debut, “How to Go Out On a Date in Queens,” garnered a Best Actor nod for Estes, as well as best picture and director awards for Danner from the Los Angeles Indie Awards.
Estes just completed four episodes on “CSI: Miami” and is in consideration for a couple of film roles.
In the meantime, he’ll be on the boards for “Mental” in Santa Monica and surfing the ‘Bu during downtime in the Colony, where he lives. He also resides in Seattle, Wash. with his son, Mason, and daughter, Maya.
“Mental,” Estes said, has touched his life as a parent and son.
“It’s the “dawning of a new generation,” he said. “And at the end of the play, the next generation, my generation, won’t keep secrets like mom and dad, and will be able to go beyond their comfort zone, beyond the fear that’s created by being suppressed.”
“Mental” previews Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. It officially opens Saturday, June 16, and runs through Aug. 26 at the Edgemar Center for the Arts at 2437 Main St., Santa Monica. Tickets are $28. More information can be obtained by calling 310.392.7327.