Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Boomerang Effect by Matthew Leavitt

By Joe Straw

The Odyssey Theatre is so close to everything on the west side.  It is a hop, skip and a jump from anywhere north, west, east and south of Sepulveda and Pico.  They have wonderful theatre there.  I’ve seen some good things and I am always happy to return.

Village Green Productions presents the world premier of The Boomerang Effect, written by Matthew Leavitt and directed by Dámaso Rodriguez, through April 29, 2012.   It is produced by Del Shores, Linda Toliver and Gary Guidinger and is a guest production at The Odyssey Theatre.

Del Shores has been around forever and he has an eye for entertaining audiences. The Boomerang Effect is no different.  It is a crowd pleaser and something more, which I address later.

The Boomerang Effect breaks down into various chapters with five couples having assorted conflicts. One bedroom set is used for all places where our couples engage in their lively sexual pursuits.  They are connected with other couples in the course of the stories, sometimes as friends, and sometimes as relatives.  The play does not have an intermission so it flies by in a brief period of time.

Chapter 1: The Birthday Present refers to Paul’s (Luke McClure) birthday present, which is, in effect, oral sex given to him by his partner Stephanie (Kim Hamilton).  It is an act she hates to perform (this time every year) and runs to the bathroom upon a satisfactory conclusion or unsatisfactory conclusion depending upon your perspective.  

But, there is more to their relationship than meets the eye.  Paul and Stephanie are in love.  But it is not endless love because Paul works at Trader Joe’s; a job that Stephanie believes is taking him nowhere, and Stephanie wants more from their relationship.  The conflict between the two in not without merit when we find that Stephanie is pregnant.  

Chapter 2: Pillow Talk is about the small talk that Renee (Tiffany Lonsdale) gives Andrew (Will Christoferson) while they are in the throes of lovemaking.  In short, her little speaks are awful, and takes him to flaccid places where, in brevity, no man wants to go.  When he’s trying to make love, she speaks about the holes in his shirts and buying him new ones.

But there’s two side of this story.  Andrew wants Tiffany to try new things, say the right things, and even biting may be a wonderful addition to the mix.  When she does bite him she almost tears his nipple off.  Sometimes relationships have no middle ground.  It’s either one doesn’t go far enough or one goes too far in the wrong direction.  

Chapter 3:  Words with Friends is about a couple David (Jonathan Stavin) and Nick (Emerson Collins).  David is a not-too-bright man.  And to top things off he doesn’t have a job, is not really pursuing a job, and spends the day on his iPad playing an internet game with internet friend, Ian Chang.  And David always loses because Ian Chang is slightly smarter. Not a lot, slightly.  Although Nick loves David, he doesn’t like the fact that David does not have a job and is not really looking.  And for those reasons, Nick is not putting out.

But David has got this dry spell all figured out.  He wants to become an actor and wants his partner to help him with a 5-year plan to succeed as an actor.  Nick thinks his ideas are ridiculous, an actor needs money for acting classes and he doesn’t even have a job.  No job equals no acting classes.

Chapter 4: Des Moines is a wonderful place of liaisons and this is no exception for Alexander (Charles Howerton) who loves to go out on business outings and rent a hotel room.  When he asks his receptionist Julie (Kat Bailess) to take a memo, he subsequently asks her to stop and…

“Sleep with me or you’re fired” -  Alexander

But, Julie is a very headstrong southern woman.  She threatens a lawsuit against the sleazebag.  Alexander tells her to calm down.  He calmly states that sleeping with him will get her a promotion and raise, a nice corner office, and two secretaries.

Julie eventually comes around to the idea of a raise and promotion and looks at this sleazy opportunity as an opportunity gained.

Chapter 5:  The Ignoble Fate of Timmy the Rabbit is about another couple.  This is a story about an office party that got completely got out of hand when a married man Marcus (Joel Bryant) and single woman Janetta (Liza de Weerd) got drunk and sleep together. When they wake up the following morning, Janetta is extremely happy that Marcus is still in the room with him.  She bounces into the bathroom and Marcus wakes up in terror, calls his wife, and tells her that he made too much of the night and stayed at the office.  In other words, he lies, three ways to Sunday.

He gets half dressed and runs out of the hotel room only to remember that Janetta is wearing the necklace that his wife gave him.  He needs it back and then needs to leave but Janetta is not willing to give in so easily.

Later we revisit all of the couples where they settle their differences in uncordial and unsightly manners.

There is a lot to be said about The Boomerang Effect and something about the concept of the entire production and its execution.  The acting by all was well above par. The relationships were well defined and the conflicts were strong enough to keep the show moving at a brisk pace. It was an enjoyable experience for audience and performers alike.

Luke McClure as Paul has a nice name for Hollywood work.  There could have been more in the opening moments of his scene. I did not buy it for a second and if there’s one thing an actor must do is sell the performance.  Also, McClure needs to lower the pitch of, and strengthen, his voice.  That aside he did have his moments and the bathroom scene was hilarious.  It’s too bad we didn’t get to see any of it.

Kim Hamilton as Stephanie has some very nice moments on stage.  One can really feel her predicament.  She is very convincing in the role and all in all, she did some very nice work on stage.

Tiffany Lonsdale as Renee has not reached the point of maturity with the character.  On this particular night, she did not set an imaginative objective that carries her through her two scenes. As the role grows on her, possibly the character will come to her. But part of the problem is that the scene does not go far enough so that she makes sense.  She doesn’t want him to come prematurely so she throws out bad small talk.  But here’s the point, they never get to the moment where he is even out of his clothes much less near coming prematurely.  If this is a modesty issue, better to play the scene under the sheets.

Will Christoferson as Andrew is a nice looking tall statuesque leading man type from Texas who doesn’t know how to take off a woman’s boots.  Are you kidding me?  The synonym for a Texan is “Male or female, I know how to take off boots.”   Where’s the macho thing that we expect from a Texan?  Seriously, when an action on stage is unbelievable to an audience, an actor is forced to make up a lot of ground to get the pendulum swinging back into the believability factor.   That aside, as the character, he has a slight premature ejaculation problem and that problem is not fully realized.  As it is now, the relationship is too middle-of-the-road and lacking imagination. So the way to approach the scenes is have a macho Texan (or man) with a problem who needs to overcome the problem in ways that are completely out of character.  In short, he needs an inner conflict as well as having conflict with his partner.  That conflict will translate into a believable relationship and a successful scene.

Jonathan Salvin as David does a very nice job.  He has actually developed two relationships.  One offstage, with Ian (or E.N.) Chang, and the other with his partner. He understands the conflict and achieves his objectively magnificently. As the character, he is fully developed and knows instinctively where to go and where not to tread. This was a very dry and funny performance.

Emerson Collins as Nick does a fine job.  As the character he doesn’t want to have sex with his partner until he gets a job. But his imagination is lost and it leads him to pursue the other character off stage. Also his apology is a middle of the road apology when he should in fact be kissing the feet of the only one in his life he has injured.  Still, this is only minor.  A few adjustment and the moments should play out fine.

Charles Howerton is exceptional as Alexander the lusty old businessman who adds one more secretary to his life’s conquest. It doesn’t take long to see where Howerton is going, the actions he takes to pursue his prey, and the manner he goes about achieving his objective.  As the character, he is ripe as the devious manipulator, the sole proprietor of his unworthy soul.  Thinking he may be older and wiser than all of the secretaries he has come across in his lifetime, he forgets that he is physically a lot slower and he gets his.  This is a wonderful performance.

Kat Bailess is equally remarkable as Julie. She is a strong, forceful woman, who will not take anything from anyone unless there’s money involved.  And then she goes after it like bees go to honey.  She has a strong southern accent (a product of Vicksburg, Mississippi) and a wonderful way of using her voice to create a character that takes situations to extremes. It all works so wonderfully.  As the actress, Bailess makes use of her body and her mind to achieve her objective.  She goes about getting her objective in physical ways and by taking situations to extremes until fully realized.  In this type of theatrical production, these are the choices one likes to see and hers are life and death situations treated with the utmost reverie and respect.

Liza de Weerd as Janetta plays a lonely girl who thinks she has got her man.  The problem is he is married.  She figures it out but doesn’t care.  As the character, she holds on to her most prized procession, his necklace and she’s not giving it back, wife or no wife. She wants him badly. She holds onto the necklace until finally she is finally deceived. There is a moment missing in the end of that scene that should be elevated.  It is a minor flaw in a performance that was otherwise quite excellent.    

Joel Bryant did a nice job as Marcus. He was very physical on stage.  So physical in fact sweat was pouring out of every conceivable pore from his body. One must admit that Bryant was running around considerably.  As the character, his one job is to get the necklace off of her body and get out. The odd thing though is that he is a consummate liar. They both know it.  The only way he is going to get the necklace off her neck is to trick her with the sad bunny story.  That said he needs to find more imaginative ways to get closer to her to achieve his objective.  One is not sure why he never gets completely dressed during the progression of their intercourse.

Dámasco Rodriguez is a well-regarded director in town going from one project to the next.  This project is an interesting look at personal conflicts and relationship, which he handles, successfully both gay and straight with a sense of class and dignity.  But one gets the idea that things did not go far enough, that modesty was not left at the stage door, and that characters needed more development.

There are a lot of wonderful things in Matthew Leavitt’s play.  The Boomerang Effect refers to getting back what you throw out. A lot of the characters throw out a lot and they seem to get it back tenfold. The play is smartly written, the characters are engaging, there is purpose and meaning in the telling of the story.  The play has a lot more potential than the final outcome. And I keep using the words extreme to define characters and I believe some characters need to define themselves in order for the play to work in its entirety.  Once the characters are defined and the situations are believable the play will come around.

The production team includes John Iacovelli, the Scenic Designer.  Jared A. Sayeg is the Lighting Designer.   The Costume Designer is T. Ashanti Mozelle.  The Sound Designer is Doug Newell.  Judith Borne did the Publicity.  The Photographer is Ed Krieger.  Casting was by Rich Delia and the Graphic Designer was Jessica Smith.

Is Matthew Leavitt’s play is a theatrical showcase?  If it is, it is well done.  If he wants more, he needs to throw the boomerang farther.  

Go!  Take a friend who was abused in their last relationship. 

Reservations:  310-477-2055

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