By Bea Wolff
Bright Eyes Productions’ superb presentation of “The Unexpected Man” offers an acting tour de force. Judy Jean Berns (the woman) and Ronald Hunter (the man) explore, with both humor and pathos, the interior lives of two people who happen to be sitting in the same compartment of a train traveling from Paris to Frankfurt.
The woman, played by Ms. Berns with effervescence and sexual depth against a backdrop of loss, struggles to introduce herself to the man; he is her favorite author and through his novels has been her only “companion” during lonely times. The man is played by Ronald Hunter with the almost cynical point of view of a disappointed romantic as he acknowledges the bitterness that has overtaken his life; he tries to make sense of his legacy while gripped by an awareness of how powerless he is to control his own destiny much less anyone else’s.
Written by multiple Tony Award-winning author Yasmina Reza, the underlying theme is how time rushes by as quickly as the train ride. Told largely in monologue form, with the lighting designed by Matt Richter highlighting each character as he or she speaks, the play breaks open when finally the characters interact. What follows is touchingly disturbing because it underscores how ripe the promise of a moment is, and how transitory.
Directed with sensitivity by David Robinson, and taking place on an effectively sparse set designed by Chrystal Lee, “The Unexpected Man” holds the audience’s rapt attention for 90 minutes.
“The Unexpected Man” plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through March 28, 2010, at The Lounge Theater 2 (6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA). Tickets are $20. For reservations, call (323) 960-7785 or visit www.plays411.net/unexpectedman. Ample street parking available.