Sunday, October 11, 2009

Breaking and Entering by Colin Mitchell

By Joe Straw

Recently, about a week before my mother died, I had tried to get a truth out of her and, sadly, it was not forthcoming. Maybe it was the distance, or the fact we were on the telephone speaking in hushed tones saying things about a subject matter so uncomfortable that she could not give me an answer. Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills is putting on a grand production of the world premiere play of Colin Mitchell’s Breaking and Entering directed by Mark L. Taylor. This is a story about truth, the extrication of the truth and the consequences as a result from learning the truth.

The story takes place in the home of a world-renowned novelist Wallace J. Trumbull (Steven Shaw) in upstate New York early November. Fifty years ago he had written a masterpiece that made him famous. And then he was done.

Wallace, in his office, is in a self-imposed seclusion. Typing on his Smith Corona typewriter he extracts another unsuccessful attempt at luminosity, crumples the page, and adds them to the other pages that litter his floor. But, his 50-year effort to write another brilliant novel tonight is conveniently interrupted by something more important, the World Series.

It is the night of the seventh game of the World Series between the marquee match up of Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. In the booth are Jack (Christopher Gherman) and guest host Bob (Lary Ohlson) a huge fan of Trumbull when as bad luck would have it the power goes out.
As Wallace leaves the room to retrieve a light source an intruder breaks into his home. Her name is Milly (Meredith Bishop) and she is Wallace’s biggest fan. Also, she has written a 700-page masterpiece and wants Trumbull to read it. In fact she won’t leave until he has made assurances that it will be read. And she needs to ask him some questions that demand to be answered.

But, there is more to the story than that of the obsessed fan. It is a story of a lifetime obsession across many generations. It is a night of truths, lies, death and destruction. The night is an important one as intense as a 3-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and the scored tied.

Shaw as Trumbull takes us on a methodical journey of fabrication and treachery. He is a fly caught in a web of deception waiting for the moment of truth. And when the truth comes he suddenly grows fangs. He is engaging and magnificent.

Bishop as Milly is as dangerous as she is delightful. She is coy, cunning and manipulative. Her safely hidden objective becomes apparent as she pounces on Trumbull’s deceitful answers. To give away that truth early in the first act would give away everything.

Ohlson and Gehrman as the sportscasters did a magnificent job but the baseball analogy eludes me. It confuses the action on stage, takes away from the moments, and I’m sure there’s more here than meets the eye.

Mark L. Taylor’s direction gives us a fascinating look at the quest for truth, which in turns asks the question “You may have sympathy for the devil, but can you identify the devil? ” Plainly his focus is on the intimate moments, the long pause, the silence that changes the direction of the characters lives and he does this beautifully.

Colin Mitchell writes a play that is almost impossible to believe. It is an extrication of the truth from generations of lies. It is a tale of a possible improbability. And yet, this is an extremely satisfying play. Colin crafts a richly textured play. It is humorous and frightening, delightful and stunning, as well as poignant and forgiving.

Wonderfully produced by David Hunt Stafford with a very nice set design by Jeff G. Rack.
Theatre 40 is a wonderful theatre that has been around for over 40 years. It has it home on the campus of Beverly Hills High School. The support group is fantastic and the parking is free.

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