Playwright Paul Elliott’s inspiration for Finding the Burnett Heart came when his mother passed away, and he remembers how his old school, “take charge” father moved in. “He was somewhat of a dictator, from the word go…” where no family member would dare challenge or debate him … til Elliott’s precocious 8-year-old daughter was courageous enough to do so! The Burnett family finds themselves somewhat speechless when 16-year-old Tyler (Joel Johnstone) inadvertently comes out to his petulant grandfather (James Handy). This theme is so incredibly timely with this week’s unprecedented news of Obama’s support for equal rights in same-sex marriages. Gay teens have been bashed both figuratively and literally throughout history by so many cultures, and the issue been explored in numerous plays, including The Laramie Project and Angels in America. As Tyler does a lot of internal soul searching while facing the angst of adolescence, while yearning to be true to himself, shades of the lyrics of Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin and Beautiful Boy by John Lennon come to life on stage. Is there no pity or compassion for a teen just trying to fit in and find his way? He loses precious familial connections and needed support, particularly from his Bible-toting mother (Colleen Renee McGrann), who quotes Scriptures passages about the “evils of homosexuality.” In today’s bully-ridden society, where gay youth in particular are subjected to grief and torment, oft times leading to running away and even suicide; and where every nine days a gay individual is either brutalized or murdered, Paul Elliott, in his play, shares a universal message of utmost importance: Solid grounding and acceptance within the family unit/home are vital. “Without that support, your kid will be destroyed in the real world.” With more and more families living in the “sandwich generation,” where an adult cares for both children and aging parents, there’s a definite story to be told. The importance of unconditional love is key. While the grandfather states, “Don’t brag on yourself, let others do it for you,” Tyler, with the help of a psychiatrist and supportive father (Jeff L. Williams), is able to come to terms with his sexuality and ultimately find his heart.
Finding the Burnett Heart runs through?May 27 on Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. The Lillian Theatre is located at 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. For tickets, call (323) 960-7792 or visit www.plays411.net or www.burnettheart.com.