Friday, August 24, 2012

All Your Hard Work by Miles Brandman

Michael Grant Terry and Amy K. Harmon
By Joe Straw

  
After parking near Gold’s Gym I walked over to the place that is the Lillian Theatre.  I noticed the sign up above a garage door or loading dock-looking thing. It was closed and there was no entryway.

Am I in the right place?  Well I must be, there’s somebody sitting on a stoop, who is, by appearance, waiting for something to happen, or open, or do.  There is a latch on the door so the darn thing must flip up like a garage door. It must. It must. But, is this the theatre?



Coming early to theatre one sees the most unusual things.

And when the door rolled open, The Lillian Theatre was showcased in all of its glory and was quite charming.  Reminds me of Grandma’s home – in a way – nice and cozy with a porch like setting.  

Time to get to work – twitter – Facebook, etc., but there’s no AT&T access there.

I’m told if I move my phone doing figure eights I get something. I end up looking foolish. All this hard work and nothing’s working.

And now the porch is slightly uncomfortable.  I’m constantly moving my six foot six frame so that others can walk around me.  Taping on the keys, moving and sending without success is driving me up the wall.

And it seems those who love the theatre smoke cigarettes, and they love to smoke outside, near the porch, and that smokes waifs into the lobby. My eyes start watering and I can’t see to type.  So, I’m hot from the heat, coughing from the smoke and water is pouring out of my eyes.  I’m working really hard to stay calm. (And why do smokers all wear black?)

Brimmer St. Theatre Company presents All Your Hard Work by Miles Brandman and directed by Michael Matthews.  It is a World Premiere Play running through August 25, 2012 at the Lillian Theatre in Hollywood.

The play is a smooth extended ninety minute one act, polished and glossy, with just enough sex and tight fitted clothing to keep a person extremely interested and stimulated.   

Mary Ellen (Amy K. Harmon) is a stunning creature with feathered earrings, tan high heel shoes and a salmon see through skintight dress, which stops mid-calf on her smooth legs.  She has decided to meet a man she had known in college nine years ago, Jim (Michael Grant Terry).  (That makes them in their late twenties or early thirties.)

Before Mary Ellen lets Jim into her studio apartment, she tells him to wait outside.  Jim anticipates in the darkness, while Mary Ellen scurries around her apartment neatening things, not just a few things but lots of things, clothes, food, books, magazines, takeout, everything.

One suspects that she did not anticipate him coming back to her apartment at all.

When things are tidied up she allows him to come into her studio.

Right off the bat they are extremely nervous.  Jim purposefully has a ring on his finger.  And Mary Ellen purrs about the apartment offering Jim a drink and taking mental notes of his casual body language.

Their conversation drifts back to the days when they worked for the school newspaper.  He was the editor and she a staff writer. Each had dreams of becoming famous reporter. Their journey, in that direction, was not satisfied.   

Jim is working a job in a place he likes a lot.  He has an American Express Sky Blue card (with an $85.00 annual fee).  And Jim has a modest home that required a $50,000 down payment, a wife, and a small son.

Mary Ellen is working 12 hours a day for Urban Outfitters.  And she is a little jealous that he has a home, and a ring on his finger, and a wife.  Still they remember a wonderful moment in the stairwell, at school, without a condom.

“So the wife is in house, and you’re here.” – Mary Ellen

Jim tells her he travels to 15 cities and he was in this town (not Atlanta) and decided to call her and get reacquainted.

“Fifteen cities. Girls in 15 cities? You could get into trouble for this.” – Mary Ellen

“I want to be married.” – Jim (emphasis on the want as in I like the commitment of being married)

“Am I the kind of girl men don’t want to marry? – Mary Ellen

Still he is there, he takes off his shoes and doesn’t appear to be leaving.  And she has something on him, something painful, something that will cause much distress in his life and his marriage. He is not aware of the information she is about to divulge, but appears to be slightly curious.

By that same token Jim has some information he would like to share with Mary Ellen.

By the end of the night their conflict takes the life out of this emotionally exhausted couple until they are a mass of quivering flesh and mixed up human passions.  And yet he leaves hoping she will take the final step. Hoping the spark of this night lights a flame of action.  Love and desperation play funny games.

Michael Grant Terry and Amy K. Harmon


Amy K. Harmon does some very nice things on stage. She is an exquisite creature that has this slight quirkiness about her. She listens and is reactive to the ongoing conversation that turns into a battle at times. As the character, Mary Ellen, she is forgiving and she wants him but only on her passionate terms. As a former school newspaper reporter, she still hasn’t forgiven him for censuring her piece on the school cafeteria scandal.  She will never forgive him but she will have him in the worst possible way. Or best depending on your perspective. Harmon has a lot of magnificent moments on stage and it is hard to take your eyes off of her.  There was a glimpse of something extra in her character that was unique, totally unexpected, and fascinating to watch during her performance. And she never gives up being a reporter, never. All in all, it was a terrific job.   

Michael Grant Terry as Jim did an exceptional job. He has an all American look that works for him. But, there was something more in his character, an uneasiness, a slight trepidation, and an objective that wouldn’t be known until the final moments of the play.  It is all so fascinating. His character is also not truthful or forthcoming for that matter. He holds onto things (his inner life) until food or liquor pulls it out of him. Terry has this casualness about him and a spirit of unpredictability.  His scene in the kitchen, finding the food, and cutting the vegetables with extreme precision while being menacing was quite spectacular. And there were some very humorous moments coming out of the bathroom as well. All in all, a very nice intrepretation of a complicated character.

Michael Matthews, as director, did an exceptional job in this production. The early going was very predictable.  But, as the one act moves, the cat and mouse game reached a serious fever pitch.  And as this was theatre in the round, square or octagon, the director had the actors almost in your laps listening to their very private conversation. Matthews made use of the stage and gave the audience an intimate extreme close up of their concatenate lives. 

Emilia Richerson and Dan Gordon are understudies playing Mary Ellen and Jim respectively.

I enjoyed Miles Brandman’s play.  The simplicity and the complexity of the play were delightful.  The players each have a motive that is both mysterious and exciting.  Mary Ellen wants Jim, plain and simple. But she is jealous of his wife, and house, and son.  After all, on closer inspection, her life hasn’t turn out so great living in the studio apartment working twelve hours a day and conflicted about not having those things and worse yet having a married man in her apartment.  And yet Jim is there because he wants, what? Her? Well, maybe he does want her. Or maybe he doesn’t.   Maybe he wants to leave his wife.  I think she thinks so. But, he just wants her for the night. That’s it.  He wants her one night, in the bed on the couch, or on the floor, and then he’s out the door. Love is so cruel. But, he doesn’t want. He wants one thing and one thing only.  This play has a lot of fun to getting to that point.

Stephen Gifford has created a beautiful set.  It is one that actors die for when they work hard to create a beautiful moment.  The set is a beautiful accessory to the moment.

Tim Swiss also does a wonderful job with the lighting.  It is very moody and creative.

Christian Svenson was responsible for the Costume Design.

Cricket S. Meyers did a fine job with the Sound Design. His website is www.cricketsmyers.com.

Other members of this successful crew are Tyler Jenich (Assistant Director), and Rebecca Eisenberg (Stage Manager).

Ken Werther was the Producer of this very fine detailed production. His website is www.kenwerther.com.  And Michael Bulger was the Co-Producer.

Run to see this production and take a long lost friend.

It ends tomorrow night but this is a kind of play that actors love.  Go out and buy it (when it becomes available) and have fun performing it in your acting classes.

 







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