Monday, May 27, 2013

I’m Not Rappaport by Herb Gardner

Carl Crudup and Jack Axelrod

By Joe Straw

I did not have a relationship with the man who gave me life.  My mother divorced him, remarried, and my brothers and sisters assumed the name of the man she married.  My father signed away his rights, and we were, by law, adopted.

When my 91-year-old grandmother died, I asked about my father thinking he was dead.

“No, he’s still alive.” my oldest sister said.

So, after 30 years of not seeing, or speaking to my father, I picked up the phone and called, and after a few moments he told me something that was blatantly false.   Why was the truth so hard for him?  - The narrator.

There’s a lot to be said about the telling of a joke: the timing has to be just right otherwise the joke doesn’t work.  The “I’m not Rappaport” joke was a joke one has to think about.  Still, I didn’t get it. Why doesn’t this joke work? I asked myself.  Personally, I think it needs a pause in the right place.  Reading it over and over, I got the pause. If the pause isn’t in the right place, the joke dies a dispirited death.

The play opens in early October 1982.  The setting is a park bench near a path at the edge of the lake in Central Park, New York City, at 3:00 p.m. on a lovely afternoon.  In the distance is the sound of a carousel spinning accompanied by calliope music – abiding memories of our youth.

Midge (Carl Crudup) is a working class 80-year-old black man with thick glasses trying to read “The Sporting News.” He ignores Nat (Jack Axelrod), a dapper 81-year-old Lithuanian man with a cane and the gift of gab.  To the impartial viewer, they would appear to be complete strangers.

“O.K., where was I? (No response. Midge reads his paper.) Where the hell was I? What were we talking about? I was just about to make a very important point here (to Midge).  What were we talking about?” – Nat

“We wasn’t talking. You was talking. I wasn’t talking.” – Midge

“O.K., so what was I saying?” – Nat

“I wasn’t listening either.  You was doing the whole thing by yourself.” – Midge

“Why weren’t you listening?” – Nat

“Because you’re a Goddamn liar.  I’m not listening to you anymore.” – Midge

The West Coast Jewish Theatre presents “I’m Not Rappaport” by Herb Gardner and directed by Howard Teichman. This is a marvelously well-written show, wonderfully directed and with a superior cast.

It’s probably best to come in cold on a production like this, let the events unfold before your eyes and ears and make the best of what you believe is true or not true.  Because “I’m Not Rappaport” is a play about a man who never tells the truth.

Well, never is never really correct.  Maybe the better option is telling you he rarely tells the truth but is having the time of his life making up stuff as he goes along.

Sometimes in the park you find your perfect spot, the shading is just right, the breeze a cool wisp, and the sun catches you in spots that warm your soul.  But sharing the spot and fighting off unwanted interruptions requires a tenacious constitution.  This is a story about two men wanting to get the most out of the rest of their lives and needing each other in order to make that happen.

Midge has found that spot.  He’s been there for the last couple weeks listening to Nat tells his stories that are blatantly not true.  That is an understatement; the stories were out and out lies, but good stories that passed the time.

Midge has had enough and is going to punch Nat out, if he can see him. While taking a swing, Midge falls to the ground. He remains quiescent, and methodically takes inventory of his intactness.

Nat runs his hands along Midge’s body to make sure all the bones are in one piece in an act of unembarrassed friendliness.

“If you like this, we’re engaged.” – Nat

But Midge has another reason for keeping a low profile.  He hopes to avoid Danforth (Joe Langer), who heads the building committee where he works and lives.  There will be upgrades to the building and there are a lot of changes taking place. Today Midge thinks he’s getting the axe.

And, sure enough, Danforth (Joe Langer) sees him from the bridge and shouts that he’s got three more miles to go before he can get to Midge and their meeting.  Midge is a nervous wreck.

“Mr. Danforth, Twelve H, Head o’ the Tenants’ Committee.  Place is goin’ co-op, he says they got some reorganizin’ to do, says he wants to see me private…” – Midge

Midge has been hiding from him and, as it turns out, the truth will be coming three miles later.  Midge has bad eyesight, so bad he sees blue shadows and very little else.

Nat says he’s the same way and, in that way, they are connected.

“Why because we both got vision.  Who needs sight when you got vision.” - Nat

And even though Nat says Midge has got a cowardly personality and a chicken-sh*t attitude he is convinced their meeting with Danforth will go well.

Jack Axelrod is wonderful as Nat.  It is a marvelous performance that should not be missed by people who love the theatre and those who study, take notes, and marvel at the craft. This is definitely a character that wants to live and live with all the gusto he can muster until he drops.  He is a man of the proletariat with a scornful disregard for the bourgeois.  There is only one thing that frightens him and that is losing his freedom, you can see it in his eyes as he quails inwardly. Alexrod is stout but is not a spring chicken and I’m not sure how many times he can be thrown to the ground during the course of this run.  Natheless, there is so much life, heart, and soul in his performance one does not want to leave the theatre.

Carl Crudup is equally exciting as Midge.  His performance as a mordacious character is as riveting as it as it is exciting. As independent as he feels, he needs his counterpart to help him through the rough spots. He can’t do it alone and how many other people his age can he relate to? Not many I suspect.  And although he has lost most of his sight, he has this innate implacable curiosity about him and will not rest until he finds the true identity of his counterpart. It is a wonderful performance.

Joe Langer plays Danforth with aplomb.  Langer brings a lot of life to Danforth.  It is a nasty but sympathetic portrayal of a man having to do the dirty deed and not feeling really good about it. Or is that just an act? Why would he be there if he didn’t accept the job?  He is just a college professor, someone who teaches Communication Arts and may be the best person suited for the task. Langer is wonderful when confronted by Nat and that whole back and forth lifts the play to unimaginable heights. It is a wonderful job.

Melissa Collins plays Laurie and does an admirable job.   Laurie is an art student who is out in the park sketching, working on the details of her craft, the lake, trees, two old men and possibly a drug dealer.   Yes, she has had a problem and she’s trying to move on with her life.  Her only problem is the drug dealer wants $2,000.00 she owes for buying drugs on credit that doesn’t sit well when the dealer politely demands the money. This is a peculiar role.  Laurie has a rough edge, but when she enters, it is as though she is just an art student.  If there is someone looking for her, her actions in this mostly deserted part of the park do not indicate a dark force approaching.  She even decides to take a nap.   Maybe there are others choices to be had here.

Andy Scott Harris plays Gilley and does well but lacks the well-defined character needed for this particular role. It may be easy putting on the costume and saying the tuff guy words but there are many more layers needed for this character.  The kiss doesn’t work because there is no relationship between the two of them and because she wakes up and finds that he is not the man she expects.  His sole purpose is to get his walking-home money, his protection fee, and there should be nothing that takes him away from that objective.  He needs to find better ways to get those men home until he gets to his last resort, the knife. Harris is 15 years old, has a good look, and has a lot more to learn.  One can’t help but wonder, with the talent around him, that he has learned a lot during the run of this show.  

Maria Spassoff and Jack Axelrod

Maria Spassoff plays Clara Gelbert and provides a performance I truly loved. Spassoff is a focused actress that goes after what she wants.  As the character Clara, a real estate agent now living in Great Neck, her objective is to find her father and get him to agree to a living arrangements that will put her mind at rest and not drive her absolutely mad. She, once a militant herself, will no longer cover for her dad’s fraud, which seems to be a daily occurrence. She does believe in her “Pop” and is even caught and carried away in his reality. It is a wonderful performance.

Carl Crudup and Patrick J. Rafferty 

Patrick J. Rafferty as The Cowboy has a wonderful stage presence, a delightful Montana accent, and a character with many layers. Trying to be the tough guy, he has much insecurity and is not afraid to show it.  As The Cowboy he is smart and tenacious but maybe not as smart as those around him, possibly he is in way over his head, and is coming to terms this may not be the life for him.  His only problem is getting out.  

Kate Huffman is an understudy for Laurie but did not perform the night I was there.

Howard Teichman, the Director and Producer have done a wonderful job. Just a note:  I would clean up the relationship of the first scene.  For the first few minutes one is not sure if the two have had a relationship at all. We discover it through the eventual dialogue but I’m wondering if there is a better choice. Still, Teichman takes his actors on a whirlwind journey despite Nat’s pathetically mendacious ways.  The story ends with a gracious resolution and the audience soars out of the theatre. Teichman has done a fantastic job, simply marvelous.

Herb Gardner has written a terrific play. He gives us a lot to think about as we move closer to the miserable indignities of old age, those depressing thoughts of aging as, each day, we move one day closer to death.  But there is a lot of life in this play and watching it all play out is a fantastic journey.  The characters, all of them, are untrammelled, each having their own voice and speaking loud enough to say “We are not going quietly!”

Bill Froggatt is the Associate Producer and Sound Designer and did a fantastic job.

Priscilla Miranda is the Stage Manager.

Michéle Young is the Costume Designer and did a very nice job finding or producing the 1980’s costumes for that period. 

Ellen Monocroussos is the Lighting Designer.

Kurtis Bedford is the wonderful Set Designer and did a fantastic job.

Michael Lamont is the Photographer.

Kiff Scholl is the Graphic Designer.

Philip Sokoloff is the Publicist.

Run and take an octogenarian.  Maybe you’ll discover that you have more in common about life and the theatre than you thought. 

Pico Playhouse
10508 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90064
Reservation: 323-860-6620


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Opening Night by Norm Foster

Martin Thompson - Ilona Kulinska

By Joe Straw

I don’t know what life’s about and, half the time, I don’t know where I’m going, but this I do know:  stepping through the backstage door is a wonderful sensation – all that comes with it – and all those lights and shadows– it is inspiration coming from every direction.  – Narrator

Theatre 40 of Beverly Hills presents Opening Night by Norm Foster and directed by Bruce Gray.  There is a lot to like about this show and it is especially likeable in its sincerity.

The play opens, opening night, in the VIP room of the Piggery Theatre in North Hatley, Quebec.  Clayton Fry (David Hunt Stafford) is laying on his back, behind the couch, warming up opening up his nasal cavities, his entire mask, before he exits backstage.

“Neeeeeat, Nauuught, Nauughty” – Clayton Fry

Tom Delaney (Eric Keitel) a twenty-one year-old actor, and tonight a bartender, tells Michael Craig (Richard Hoyt Miller), an accomplished actor, that he too is an actor.  He doesn’t know when the day will come but he suspects that he and Michael will someday share the same stage.

Supremely flattered, Michael queries Tom to fetch him another drink.

Ruth Tisdale (Gail Johnston) is enamored of being backstage in the VIP lounge.  She feels the thrill and excitement of being one with celebrities. She is accompanied by her husband, Jack Tisdale (John Combs), a hardware salesman, who is unhappy about being at this silly play on the night of the 7th game of the World Series. 

Ruth strongly reminds him that it’s also their 25th wedding anniversary and she wants none of his complaining.  Ruth thinks acting is a noble profession and she wants this night to ignite the flames of their passion.

“With my back?” - Jack

Across the room Jack recognizes Handy Randy, Michael Craig, the guy in the commercials about the wrench in the box, doing the things that make people laugh or take notice.   Michael is flattered to be recognized, but quickly tires of this non-thespian speaking of varnish, and after drinking an abundant amount of alcohol, he leaves for more important things.

“Excuse me.  I’ve got to walk the schnauzer.” – Michael

Richard Hyde-Finch (Martin Thompson), the director, has found out that his actress Libby Husniak (Ilona Kulinska) has not signed in.  His partner, Cilla Fraser (Meranda Walden), the town’s socialite, comes in calmly worried about one thing, their relationship and his commitment. She’s got a little something extra up her “sleeve”.

Ruth takes the opportunity to introduce herself as being from the mayor’s office. Not to miss any golden opportunity, Richard mistakes her for the Vice Mayor and ingratiates himself to her.

“I’m in accounting, down the hall, two floors down.” – Ruth

Ruth, noted for her sincerity, explains that nobody wanted the tickets so they were given to her.

Caught dead in the silence of her comments, Ruth introduces Jack to Richard.  The first thing they want to know is if he is married (he’s not) and if he directs a lot (he doesn’t) and, so with a lot of free time on his hands, he might want to stop by the store and pick up a few cans of varnish as a hobby between jobs.

Richard takes his card and leaves.

Meanwhile Cilla speaks to Richard about having a child.  Her biological clock is ticking and she wants to have children.

“What if I were pregnant?” – Cilla

Cilla excuses herself, which leaves Michael and Richard who just happen to notice each other, in the way that actors and directors do.  And caught together in a room, they speak.  

“I’m up for the role in Iceman.  Disappointed that I didn’t get it.” – Michael

Richard, in full pleasant-speak, wants to know if the court case is behind him now.


Richard says that he is casting The Tempest in November but Prospero’s role is already filled.

Double ouch.

Best friends on the outside, gnawing bitter enemies on the in.

Libby finally shows up and Richard hustles her well-endowed self to get into costume to perform.

There is a marvelous set change Designed by Jeff G. Rack and the VIP room is wonderfully transformed to a small set with a country backdrop and actors churning butter.  The audience is comprised with everyone we’ve met in the first act, sitting in the audience, grinning while the show starts.  

And everyone is there to watch, filled with optimism, on opening night.  Slowly the lights come up on a voluptuous young maiden, churning butter, waiting for the arrival of her father.  And it is then that everything starts to go horribly wrong.   

I couldn’t help but stare at the patrons from time to time and see warm smiles throughout the night.  There was also a woman who had an infectious laugh and was having the best of times.

John Combs plays Jack Tisdale and did a fine job learning a few facts of life. Stuck in the back room of his hardware store, listening to the baseball fames on his transistor radio one would surmise he doesn’t get out much. Combs has a comedic commercial face and does quite well. He could take it up a notch with the bag of chips.

Gail Johnston played Ruth Tisdale and has a very nice show-stopping moment. Johnston is a veteran performer, which is evident throughout the night.  She made the most of her performance and was an absolute joy to watch.

Eric Keitel plays the young actor/bartender, Tom Delaney, running in and out with the drinks. I couldn’t help but believe there was more to this character, another layer or two, that wasn’t seen on this night. Still, Keitel did a very nice job.

Llona Kulinska played a robust Libby Husniak with enough comic flair to entice her counterparts.  But her relationship seemed platonic on all levels and it’s not something a character really wants when she is trying to make it to the top. Still, I enjoyed her performance.

Richard Hoyt Miller played Michael Craig, an actor with a wonderful voice, a to-die-for voice, a voice for the stage but possibly not film (cue: rim shot), and a voice that is the downfall of his life.  Not to mention the troubles he has gotten into.  Miller is a wonderful actor.  

David Hunt Stafford as Clayton Fry, complete with an English accent (Yipes! Where did that come from?), is a farmer out of his field.   Not someone you would want churning butter with your young daughter. As Clayton, the actor, he is very charming to his counterpart, sweeping her away with lines remembered from long ago. It is a wonderful performance.

Martin Thompson as Richard Hyde-Finch is self-important cad. He is a man who has shaken the dust off this tiny theatre town and shaken it to its core.  He is a master director in his own mind and this tiny town somewhere in North Hatley, Quebec, Canada. (North of Vermont)  Still, this is his night, a critical night, a night of life and death.  Also, I think the character should be pulled in various amorous directions. At least two.  And finding a few more character moments would only add to an already delightful performance.  

Meranda Walden as Cilla Fraser is resplendent and amusing displaying her emotional pleasures of having a love and director all in the same breath.  She is a character with an equable spirit even with temptation all around her mate.  She knows what she wants and what is necessary to get there.  It is a delightful understated performance.

I’m going to make a suggestion.  Include the entryway, the backstage door, in the opening moments of the show.  This is no greater feeling than the slow walk into the backstage door.  It will compliment and define the Piggery Theatre, especially the art on the wall, which is a pasquinade of the theatre itself. Using it briefly will highlight the beginning and open VIP room to its masterful glory.    

Bruce Gray directed a delightful show but one thing bothered me.  There was a noise coming from behind me.  It sounded like someone had on a transistor radio on or it was a hearing aid gone berserk. I believe it was ambient noise but at times this noise overpowered the dialogue. A woman behind me said:  “Who’s playing the radio?” That aside, I had a delightful time.

There’s no social message in Norm Foster’s play.  It’s about everyday people living ordinary lives.  Still, one should push the envelope now and again. If it’s a show about theatre, it’s always life and death.   Just ask any actor struggling to get a job, anywhere, here in this town. Maybe, it’s just my experience but actors, are constantly battling, to get the right moment. And they tear each others’ hair out to get that moment. The battle can’t be all fun and games.

Other crew members were as follows:

Don Solosan – Stage Manager
Jeff G. Rack – Set Design/EFX
Ric Zimmerman – Lighting Designer
Bill Froggatt – Sound Designer
Michéle Young – Costume Designer  - Very nice costumes!

Run and take someone who likes the theatrical experience of Opening Night. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

On Tidy Endings by Harvey Fierstein and TransMe by Rod Bramback

By Joe Straw 


California State University Los Angeles and Theater Insomnia present Transfiguration a compilation of two one-act plays “On Tidy Endings” by Harvey Fierstein and “TransMe” by Rod Bramback at The Los Angeles Theatre Center.

There are a couple of reasons why I went to this play.  Number one, it is Harvey Fierstein and who or what could go wrong with a Harvey Fierstein play.  And if it’s Harvey Fierstein in the first act then the second act must be an equal compliment to the first act. (That’s what it says in the playbook.)  Also, it’s The Los Angeles Theatre Center known for its cutting edge theatre and always a delight to go there.

On Tidy Endings by Harvey Fierstein

“On Tidy Endings” starts with Arthur (Ricardo Salcido) getting his things together in his 1980’s motif Upper West Side New York apartment and is ready to move out.  He’s been living there three years with his AIDS infected partner until his partner’s death.  Now he is being forced to move.  

“I can still smell you.” – Arthur

Arthur leaves the apartment and Marion (Renée Kelly) comes in with her son Jimmy (Nick Ikovic-Frick).  Jimmy looks around and says this place gives him the creeps but Marion tells him to go into his bedroom to check and see if he’s got everything we wants.

Marion calls a neighbor and asks if Jimmy can come for a visit.

“Get a real life.” – Jimmy  

Marion has got some real work to do starting with the lawyer June (Heather Holli Oliver) who brings the documents for her ex-husband’s partner to sign. And as her legal representative June suggests that Arthur is entitled to nothing.  (Spoken like a true lawyer.)

But Marion wants to do right by Arthur.  Sure she’s throwing him out his home but at least she’s giving him half of the money.  And not mentioning the insurance money she’s getting. (How generous.)

Jekyns Peláez directs this fun little comedy with serious overtones.  But there were a lot of problems on stage this particular night. Arthur meanders on stage without an entrance, without focus, or an objective. Did Arthur really take a bite of a flower petal?  The opening moments provided little life and I immediately thought, we are in trouble here.  And generally, throughout the play, the actors moved from point a to point b without justification letting the words do all of the work. And that’s just not enough.

The performers all had some nice moments and I particularly liked Heather Holli Oliver as June the lawyer.  But this is Harvey Fierstein and actors need to rise to the occasions of his words and take creative actions from the words, from actions, and in character choices.  For one example, the teapot, Arthur and Marion should be tearing each other’s hair out to keep that teapot!

Renee Kelly as Marion has a nice look still a lot more work to be done.

Richard Salcido as Arthur has his moments.  Not bad but can go a lot farther.

Nick Ikovic-Frick plays Jimmy and not bad at all.

I realize this is college but there is enough experience here to give more thought to direction and choices, and taking those choices to the very extreme in rehearsal, using what works and throwing out the bad. 

TransMe by Rod Brumback

TransMe By Rod Brumback is a play about a transgender man Chris (Alain Thai) living in New York and disclosing to his friends that he is going to his family in Georgia to come out.

When he gets there, his family and friends are just as wacky as he is and, in the end, the play ends happily.

Even theatre of the absurd makes a point. What starts out fine in Rod Brumback’s play about a man coming to terms with his sexuality ends in disaster.  I don’t know if Mr. Brumback has ever been to Georgia but I can assure him that Georgians don’t throw plates of food on the ground so their adopted kids can eat from them, nor do Georgians behave at a dinner the way these people behaved. (I had to turn away at one point when an actress was taking a fork and… never mind.)  Even theatre of the absurd makes its point.

Actors should really consider the material before they decide to take a part in a production that will compromise their career.  And the fact this is a professional venue should not matter in this equation

Whitney LaBarge, the director, takes us to new uncharted territories.  I would suggest she venture to Santa Monica Boulevard, the theatre district, and look at what other directors are doing.  Thursday nights are pay-what-you-can nights in most places.  She has a lot to learn.

That said Alain Thai, as Chris, does a nice job. Christina Estrada, as Mika, and Melanie Reese (Kai) turn in respectable performances.  

Rebecca Laurel plays Clementine.

Alicia Tycer plays Blanche the matriarch with a Georgian accent (unknown to me) but did a respectable job.

Evan Tamayo plays Big Daddy and what’s not to like about this actor.

Patrick Mac as Uncle Sky seemed to have his act together and knew exactly what he was doing the entire time he was on stage. It’s unfortunate he was in this play but maybe he will learn from this experience.

Michael LeRoy plays Beaumont and it’s probably wise not to let people know that you gave up a “career as stockbroker to pursue acting full time.”  There’s too much ammunition there.  Just being mean on stage doesn’t get you anywhere.  But, being mean with an objective gets you everywhere.

Borna Shokat Moghaddam (that will never fit on the billboard) plays Mango the butler.  I loved his voice and quiet manner and he did very well this night.

Kristina Price, Janessa Floyd, and Sommer Zetter play Child 1, Child 2, and Child 3 respectively.

Other members of the production crew are as follows: 

Susie Castillo - Stage Manager
Heather Fipps - On Tidy Endings, Scenic Designer 
Bob Runningfox Gurule - TransMe Scenic Designer
Jessica Morataya - Lighting Designer 
Ted Greenberg - Sound Designer/Operator 
Kimberly Mendez - TransMe Costume Designer
James Yi - Porp/Light Board Operator
Tony Bracamonte - Assistant Costume Designer
Mike Alva - Assistant Costume Designer 
Ya Gao - Assistant Scenic Designer 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Shawl by David Mamet

By Joe Straw

One very bright afternoon, my then-brother-in-law took me to a woman in the valley because she channeled Doctor Peoples, who was dead but still around, eager, willing and ready to give advice.  This woman was a “genius” according to him. We were invited into her living room, a room with chairs and very little furniture along with six very confused women.

My then-brother-in-law handed her some money and then he began shaking his head back and forth, like there was something wrong with his neck, absorbing all she/he had to offer, I guess.   

I found out Doctor Peoples lived in the 1800 or 1900’s.  And the strangest thing that Doctor Peoples said when answering questions was:  “God bless you indeed.” I don’t believe doctors spoke like that in the 1800 or 1900s.  I wasn’t buying it, at all. It wasn’t even good acting. For the love of God, give me some truth and minimal ambiance!

After about 147 “God bless you indeeds” and in-between questions answered, the phone began to ring, and ring, and ring, and ring, and this woman, still in a Doctor Peoples trance, looked back and forth toward the phone and suddenly said, “I wonder if I should get that? Oh no, they’re gone.”  - Narrator

The Shawl written by David Mamet presented by Rydemption Entertainment & Moth Theatre Company, directed by Ryan Surratt at The Moth is a wonderful rendition of Mamet’s 1985 play. 

And The Shawl is intriguing on a couple of different fronts.  Surratt reversed the gender roles.  This reversal is very effective and conveys the meaning of Mamet’s work without losing anything in translation. Miss A becomes Mr. A, John becomes Joan, and Charles becomes, well, Charlie.   And I also liked it that the play begins with an introduction to all of the characters in a moment of frozen time and space to give us a hint this is going to be something different.  

Mr. A (Ryan Surratt) comes to see a psychic Joan (Lili Bordan) about the death of her mother and the problems he is having with her estate. Joan, placidly staring, speaks about a rhythm of in their lives and a cleaning of the mind.

“…You’ve come to me for help.  You wish me to resolve your “problem.” First, though, you would like me to inform you what that problem is.” - Joan

In the backroom is Charlie (Liz Guest) listening in on all of the finer details of swindling money from people who believe this stuff.

Mr. A really wants to believe Joan can speak to her mother. But he is skeptical at first so there is a struggle of ideas and thoughts until little things start to click.  

“You said “a scar.” – Mr. A

“That is correct.  That is another time.  A fall. But now:  think back to … a time of physical danger.” – Joan

“A… I don’t …” – Mr. A.

“Yes? (pause) What? – Joan

“Where is this scar?” – Mr. A

“It is on your left knee.  What is it?” – Joan

“Oh… “ Mr. A

“Yes?” – Joan

“I don’t have a scar there.”  – Mr. A

“You are quite wrong.” – Joan

Mr. A is certain there’s no scar there but Joan asks him to look anyway. And, like a man, he lifts his left pant leg getting it no higher than his calf and then hurriedly unbuckles his belt and drops his pants below his knee and finds a scar.  

After Mr. A leaves, Charlie, walking around in her underwear and with a sinister smirk on her face, is eager to learn how Joan does it. And to celebrate, Joan pours scalding tea out so they can talk about her magic.  Joan downplays her work, a lot of common sense and a few choice words.  It’s really not magic, just experience and research.

But there it sits, the tea, another mystery for this couple who had nothing to eat or drink earlier in the morning. Where did the tea come from?

Joan explains that she smiled at the grocery boy and opened up an account at the store. And Charlie, a bit flustered wants the money, but doesn’t come right out and ask for it.   Charlie wants to know when there will be money.

Unfazed by this grilling, Joan is looking at the big picture, the big payoff, while small-minded Charlie is looking for immediate satisfaction and gives Joan an idea about getting the money away from Mr. A.  And Joan wants her relationship with Charlie to work out and lets her in on the secrets of her trade.  But, there is only one thing that is not explained.

The Moth, once again, supplies complete satisfaction with David Mamet’s The Shawl. Ryan Surratt’s direction is sublime and the cast shines throughout. It is a quiet night of theatre, a night of quiet passions and quiet desperations cumulating into an inflamed passionate night without the hysteria. It is a wonderful night of honest emotional work. 

Ryan Surratt is incredible as Mr. A.   There is a very deep level of concentration in his work that carries him through wonderful moments throughout the play, and with a single-minded purpose to get what he wants. As the character he is brought to this moment in time, suffering mentally, and wanting complete metaphysical satisfaction. Still he doesn’t come in with a completely open mind and so he test his counterpart to make sure she is what he hopes she is.  Still, hands clasped, he desperately clings for the sign that will make his life and jumps on it the moment he finds it.

Lili Bordan plays Joan and is magnificent as well. Last seen in The Blue Room as the French maid, I thought that performance was more suited for film.  Watching her in this production, her voice is a lot stronger, and her character had many layers. There was thoughtful immobility to her action, a stare, letting the action come to her, not forcing the moments and finding a way to overcome the raging conflicts all around her. Still she speaks, all with a silent deferential, a way of thinking, of bringing out a truth until she finds a truth for resolution. She has a humanitarian passion and will let nothing or anyone get in her deceptive ways. A strand of hair hangs in front of her face, creating the only physical obstacle of her entire being this night.  She is quick to use her wit to find a way to get what she wants.  Bordan is marvelous.

Liz Guest plays Charlie and does some very fine work. She is statuesque and menacing with her physical presence.  And to top that off, she brings with her a lower class New York accent.  (Not sure why it was New York, but there you go.) There were a lot of physical things she did which could have been played differently, especially with her male counterpart (The footsies, handsies, fingers along side of the arm, only served to aggravate Mr. A and not progress the scene.) She comes off as a hustler, ready to walk the streets in search for money for food and this costs her dearly.   These are nice physical actions, but not sure if it forces her counterpart to do what she wants. Still, Guest provides many provocative moments.   

The Shawl by David Mamet is a wonderful one act with three characters that are extremely selfish wanting what they want when they want it. Mr. A is constantly testing Joan and his methods are deceptive.  Joan is willing to help but only looking for the big payday.  Still she needs help getting it. Big paydays require support and she will take that support any way she can get it. Charlie, on the other hand, wants immediate satisfaction and she wants to learn the tricks of the trade.  Who knows, she might want to stop turning tricks and get into a real profession.  Mamet gives strong voices to all of the characters.  The other characters have names except Mr. (Miss.) A.  Maybe the psychic knows the name and should not have to ask.

Justin Huen is the Lighting Designer, which was minimal and very effective.  And Lucinda KWH Jan is the stage manager.   

Run and take a psychic who knows her craft.  It could make for a very interesting evening.

Through May 31, 2013