I caught two very good productions on the weekend
Each one boasting a trio of commendable performances, and guided by innovative directors. Pick one, or see both of them.
This is the second of JT Rogers’ duo of gripping offerings running in “rep” with Madagascar in NoHo (which I reviewed last week). Rogers is a prolific and cutting edge playwright who pens mindbending scripts that explore the complexities of human nature. His roster of awards through the years is quite impressive. The final show of The Road Theatre’s 19th season, their mission statement says in part: “We continue to develop new work for the stage, encouraging emerging artists, and introducing new voices and innovative ideas to the world of theatre.” This they certainly do… with multi-color passion! When you attend any of their productions, you can expect to be riveted, and emotionally and intellectually challenged. Now in an “encore” run, White People enjoyed a lengthy stint about a decade ago, brilliantly starring Taylor Gilbert, David Gionopoulos, and Matt Kirkwood. I was there then, so it was interesting to see it again on a very different, starkly effective set (designed by Helen Harwell) with a new trio of actors, and under the gutwrenching directional vision of Douglas Clayton. The play is performed in solo monologues, though all three actors remained on stage throughout. This is a gritty look at deep seeded issues such as prejudice, class struggles, racism, guilt, self worth, and cultural differences. Serious subject matter… with an occasional laugh weaved in. As each character struggles with a personal and horrific event in their lives, we meet three tormented American people trying to make sense of the “hand” life has dealt them. Mara Lynn (a highly volatile Avery Clyde) is an ex-prom queen. Now she’s a haggard housewife in a dysfunctional marriage, dealing with the painful task of caring for a young son with a rare disease. Tom (a powerful Martin Bahmueller) is a dapper east coast businessman. He “walks the walk” and “talks the talk,” but never really achieves peace in marriage or parenthood. Lastly there’s Alan (a mesmerizing and multi-layered Mark Doerr). A passionate “misfit” university professor, who while trying to cut through the mass disinterest of his students, connects with one unlikely pupil who inspires him greatly. A heavy, thought provoking, and involving 95 minute one-act production that has a lot to say… White People requires a focused, attentive, and aware audience who is willing to listen! This is a heavy trip! Running through July 10th at The Road Theatre, upstairs at 5108 Lankershim Blvd. For seats go to RoadTheatre.org or for credit card orders call 866-811-4111.
This engrossing and in-depth story looks at forbidden love and passion from all viewpoints. Its rights and wrongs, its ups n’ downs, and the ultimate effect it has on all involved are studied in this passionate telling. Written with fast paced, bitingly snappy, yet realistically meaningful dialogue by David Hare… this is a wonderful script! Hare, one of England’s most successful living playwrights, has been nominated for Oscars and Golden Globes for numerous films. An excellent and detailed set design by Joel Daavid must be applauded! In a reunion of two long-ago lovers, we meet Tom and Kyra. At the age of 18, Kyra took a job at Tom’s restaurant and moved in with him and his wife, Alice. Though her closeness to both of them was sincere, she maintained a passionate six year secret love affair with Tom. Finally, Kyra broke it off and moved on with her life. Erin Shaver as Kyra, and Stuart W. Howard as Tom, give dynamic and heartfelt performances, abundant with depth, range, and impeccable timing! Two skilled actors… they engrossed us deeply into their lives, right up to the final fateful moments. I was mesmerized! As the play opens, Kyra is shockingly visited by Tom and Alice’s now 18-year-old son Edward (a charmingly believable Benjamin Scott Perry). There to tell her of his mother’s death, and his father’s insufferable behavior… is it possible Tom and Kyra’s simmering love affair could re-ignite? Later the same night, Tom knocks on her door, professing his undying love… but many years have passed and things have changed. He is a wealthy and arrogant world renowned restaurateur and she has settled into a meager but meaningful lifestyle. Living in a run down and inexpensive flat, she is teaching underprivileged kids in a poor neighborhood… and loving it. Will they find a way to revive their romance? You’ll just have to go and find out for yourselves. Running through June 20th (Thursdays through Sundays) at the Fremont Centre Theatre (1000 Fremont in South Pasadena). For seats call 866-811-4111. For more info call 626-441-5977.
Still in “panic mode” from having still another birthday last week… I can’t possibly be “this” age! You know you’re old when you start lying about your kids’ ages! Watch for two new reviews next week.