Sunday, March 11, 2012

Orange Flower Water by Craig Wright

By Joe Straw

“My dreams come to me in vivid colors, sounds, and impossible situations. They are sometimes gentle and at times emotional. I dream about disasters two weeks before the disasters come to pass. In the dreams or flashes, I hear people screaming, running, and large bodies of water moving rapidly over land.

“A woman calls me a “disaster dreamer” and some one else tells me I’m part of some kind of collective unconsciousness?  What does that mean?  

“Some dreams I remember for twenty or thirty years. Those dreams are a bleb encapsulated in a moment that, in the future, becomes a reality.  I saw it in a dream, it came to pass, and I lived it, that moment. Holding a small child’s hand. I must be where I’m supposed to be, time to move on, to keep going. The strange thing is I don’t believe I’m making it happen, it just happens.  

“I thought everyone had these dreams.” – a man in therapy

Rydemption Entertainment & Moth Theatre presents Orange Flower Water, written by Craig Wright and directed by John Markland, at the Moth Theatre on Melrose in Los Angeles.  It is a remarkable presentation of adult fare with marvelous actors. This is just one more noteworthy step in the many that make up the goings-on at The Moth Theatre.

There is nothing as lonely as one person in a bedroom.  And that is where Cathy (Rochelle Greenwood) stands, alone.  She speaks a letter to her husband, the missing person among the ruffled sheets of an unmade bed. In the letter, she provides instructions on what do with the kids while she is away on a trip. But she is aware that something is wrong with their relationship.  As she finishes getting dressed, she tells him:  “presume that I love you.”

Meanwhile her husband David (Jonathan Tucker), a pharmacist and father to their three children, is about to commit to an affair with Beth (Amanda Brooks).   They have known each other for three years.  Despite this, they know very little of each other's intimate thoughts even though they’ve been conversing for years. Beth believes in God and David is a lapsed Christian.

“It’s not your job to save me from Hell!” - David   

But Beth believes being a Christian is important.  She also believes these Christian values are responsible for her dreams.  She feels it.  Sees it.  Smells it. It is orange flower water spilled by a child in the back seat of a car.  So strong is the dream that it takes over her life.  It is something she needs.  She has to have it.  And so she goes after it with little regard to her husband, her children, and her home.

David can’t believe what he is hearing and believes her thoughts are “one step short of The Shinning.”

Later, on the soccer field, David who is encouraging his children, is approached by Brad (Ryan Surratt), Beth’s husband. At first, Brad seems interested in the game but when he sees his prey, the man who may be sleeping with his wife, he has an ulterior motive.   

Brad says foolish things.  It’s part of his character and it’s the only way he knows how to get what he wants. Seeing the end of his marriage in sight, Brad is angry in his approach to life, his video store, and the way he treats others.  He taunts David.  It is a verbal onslaught of emotions and digs, jagged verbal swordplay that cuts the surface of a man already bleeding with emotional wounds.

But Brad cannot be sure that David is sleeping with his wife.  He is not smart enough or subtle in the ways he finds answers.  His approach is to give David a choice of two women and ask, which one?  And he sure as hell would like to know which woman David would like to sleep with, given a preference.  Because ultimately, he believes David is sleeping with his wife.

And on another day, a pleasant sunny barbeque kind of day, Brad finds his wife, Beth, packing her belongings in a suitcase and preparing to move out of the house.  This is the scene that cuts the deepest, in the middle of a party, with friends and family nearby. This is the burn that never goes away, and it happens with the two on the bed, unable to come to grips with their quandary. They are antipodes trying to find a solution to their unsuccessful relationship. 

“I’m the queen of romantic mistakes.  Do you really want to have this conversation?” – Beth

As much as Brad tries to stop her, Beth is walking out the door.  He tries to dissuade her by saying that David is not going to leave his kids. But no amount of pleading, begging, or violence will stop this woman or any woman from making a change she is determined to make. 

And so Brad is alone speaking his letter, that he will change, that he’s not perfect, and that he wants her to come back. It is a little, and too late.

And when it’s time for the other half to break up, Cathy wants David in the most imaginable way, so much so that he will never leave her. But while they are engaged in the throes of ecstasy, she wants to know “What’s it like with Beth?”  There passion becomes a series of accusations and sexual appeasements. When it’s over and they are face to face…

“I’ll tell the kids in the morning.” - David

The actors in this production are experienced and know the craft. It is a tremendous body of work from four fine professionals and a pleasure to witness.

Amamda Brooks as Beth impresses me with each performance.  She has the dream of orange, flower and water and she pursues the passion of her dream. Her conflict is the lives she is destroying for the sake of having the family she wants. She trusts in the higher source to get her to that dream that is eventually fulfilled.  Brooks’ work is wonderful; she has an astonishing commitment to the role and pursues her objective magnificently.

Jonathan Tucker as David is about as human as they come. As the character, he is so filled with anxiety it is almost impossible for him to stand. Every thought is a process of leaving his wife, his kids, and he is not really sure if he wants to go with another woman, buy another house, live another life. The questions keep coming but the answers are not so easy.  Tucker gives a deep emotional commitment to the role. His eyes convey a lot that he is not willing to verbally express. The ending, with his back to the audience, is incredible. Stanislavski would have been proud.

Ryan Surratt as Brad is the owner of a video store, yet it is possible that this store might not last as long as his marriage. There is an edge to this character, a seemingly non-violent one that could easily turn violent. He is an angry man with just cause to say nasty things because he cannot control his verbal expulsions. His mouth is open like a male cat catching a strong whiff of a sexual scent.  He stalks his prey to try to find answers. It’s the only way he knows how.  But beneath the nasty veneer lays a man who tries hard to provide for his family and tries to keep his family together.  Surratt’s performance is absolutely terrific.

Rochelle Greenwood as Cathy plays a choir director and her performance is brilliant! Her eyes convey a deep sympathetic charm and her physical life is commanding.  This is an actress that is not afraid to go all out when the role demands it.  Yet she is also very self-contained.  She could be tearing the hair out of the head of the other woman but she stands quietly in the rain offering her some Skittles.  And as the rain breaks across the edge of the umbrella so does the heart of this character.  Greenwood was just charming and outstanding in this marvelous performance.

Craig Wright, the writer, really does a nice job with this one-act play.  Anyone who has gone through a divorce has experienced the realities presented in this play.  The hurt is continuous and the pain is great.  The tragedy of telling your kids is better left off stage although the pain on stage is surely felt by the character.  Wright does an excellent job capturing the pain.  His writing is real, heartfelt and to the point and this is a play you will remember for some time to come.

John Markland does an amazing job as the director. There is so much going on with the characters that it is difficult to appreciate it fully in one viewing.  The movements are specific and the lives are genuine. It’s just one more visual feast from a director that gets the most from his actors and gets better with each production.  This is an outstanding job.

Ryan Surratt and Amanda Brooks are the marvelous producers on this production. 

Justin Huen does a fantastic job as Scene Designer and Lighting Designer.

The Moth is a theatre that one should be obligated to see to get a sense of style and the depth of the emotions.  It is a very interesting group of patrons that hang onto every word, every emotions, and they are flocking in droves to witness this.

Run, and take a friend whose life has been de-spoused. Through March 17, 2012

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