Sunday, September 22, 2013

The End of It by Paul Coates

L - R Kelly Coffield Park, Paul Coates 

By Joe Straw

“I walked out of the theatre this night and saw a man standing facing Melrose Avenue. He removed his glasses, took the palm of his hand, and wiped his cheeks. ” - Narrator

The rings sit in my top desk drawer.  And from time to time I catch myself staring at them – one on top of the other – symbols from long ago that have had a dramatic effect on me. Two rings - the first is my first wife’s ring - she died from cancer, and the second ring on top, represents the marriage that I was asked to leave.

When I looked up at the image on the marquee at the Matrix Theatre, my face fell and my shoulders slumped.  This image indicated the end of a marriage. But I was going to make the most of this night and I was determined to see how the nocturnal fury would play out.   

End of LA & Scott Disharoon present the world premiere of The End Of It, a new play by Paul Coates and directed by Nick Degruccio, now playing at the Matrix Theatre.

The End of It is a gift—a tantalizing masterpiece of bravura and substance.  It is filled with a compelling theatrical truth and provides a somber look at life, marriage, and love.  Combined this with masterful performances by an exciting cast this show may have a remarkable life after The Matrix.  

This play has so much heart, and so much passion, that I felt myself imperceptibly shaking at the end.  The audience was vigorously applauding hoping the actors would come out for a second curtain call.  But oddly enough, after the first curtain call, they left us, much like the characters leave one other, and they didn’t come back. It was the end.

Set in an upscale home in Los Angeles, magnificently designed by Scenic Designer Francois-Pierre Couture, this play examines the lives of childless exurbanites in one harrowing night multiplied by two other couples going through the same turmoil.

The play gently starts off with Louis Armstrong’s version of “Moon River”.

Moon River wider than the mile.  I’m crossing you in style some day.

Drew (Paul Coates) and his wife Joanna (Kelly Coffield Park) have thrown a party and Joanna is yelling out the door that the less inebriated guest drive while Drew is bent over his chair thinking about what needs to happen this night.  He hasn’t had that much to drink, wants a clear head to say what he is going to say.

“Thank you God.” – Joanna

Both are grateful the guests have left but slightly upset that two of their guests are no-shows. And of course they have to talk about them when they are gone.  And they do so, finishing each other’s sentences, while deriding other nauseating couples that do the same. Drew lifts his shirt out of his pants and takes off his shoes and gets comfortable. Joanna asks if they should start the dishwasher or leave it all for the morning. Drew tells her to leave it.  And they exhaust themselves on opposite ends of the couch.  Her hands caressing only cushions, patting along the cracks, for whatever physical comfort she gets these days.

They small talk about the party and what the other guest were doing in their home including the gay couple Joanna found in their bedroom.

“What is it about gays in the desert? Get a room.” – Drew

“They did.” - Joanna

Joanna suggests that one of the party guests was pawing her husband, and when she demonstrates all Drew can do is smile and move beyond the edge of the couch.

Oh dream maker, you heartbreaker, wherever you are going, I’m going your way. 

Joanna decides that she is hungry and goes offstage into the kitchen to make herself a sandwich and offers to make Drew one.  Drew says he’s got heartburn and in fact looks to be having a heart attack when he says: “I want a divorce.”

But Joanna thinking, he’s only kidding, and asks him if he wants that sandwich. Which only makes Drew say it again:  “I want a divorce.”

L - R David Youse, William Franklin Barker 

Joanna is suddenly replaced by Joseph (David Youse) who continues his discussion with Drew.  Joseph is shocked, not understanding, what he has just heard.  Drew, stands as a holographic image quietly leaves and is replaced by his partner, Andrew (William Franklin Barker).  Joseph lets Andrew have it.

Joseph and Andrew have been together almost twenty year and of that twenty they have been married two years. And now Andrew wants out because he can’t breath.  

Two drifters off to see the world.  There’s such a lot of world to see.

Andrew says he is tired.  He’s going off to bed.  Tomorrow, he’s going to London and they can talk about their relationship when he gets back.  But Joseph is having none of it and wants to get everything out in the open.

“I’ve turned into my mother.” – Joseph

L - R Wendy Radford, Ferrell Marshall 

Joseph is replaced by a female counterpart, Jo (Ferrell Marshall). Jo is younger than her partner Dee (Wendy Radford) who wants out of the relationship, most notably because Jo has not been satisfying Dee’s physical needs for a number of years.  Dee is off to London the following day and makes clear to Jo the relationship is officially over.

We’re after the same rainbows end. Waiting ‘round the bend. My Huckleberry friend.
Moon River and me.

Paul Coates has written an astonishing play and a superior satisfying Los Angeles event.  Simply put his richly defined characters, most heading into the September of their years, want personal freedom. The project, that was their lives, is finished. They are monads, wanting to live and taking in only enough life sustaining oxygen, without worrying about anyone else, mostly their partners lives.  And they want to move on before the discussion moves to the point of miserable indignities.  Each one of the characters will not let the other go to bed until they’ve hashed twenty years of their life into one long desperate life saving argument. Accusations fly until they’ve exhausted civility and accuse the other of having another lover. The ones leaving acknowledge they are not getting what they need from their partner.  Natheless, this is a slight simplification of what was to go on this night.  Coates gives us a very textured truth, a message without a false note, and a wonderful play all in the same glorious night.  

Fleeting glances at the audience this night, indicate they were listening to every word, and absorbing the motivations of the characters on stage.

And, simply put, the actors give you your heart; they place it in your hands, and ask you to carry the play with you on your way into the night. Funny that I’m a little more sympathetic to those actors who were dumped but I'll try to be objective in my assessment of this astonishing cast of actors.

Paul Coates as Drew is marvelous in the role. Drew sets the action in motion and took his time about getting there as well.  Each moment well delivered and filled with emotion until we hear those four little words – “I want a divorce.” (So disturbed in getting there I thought he was having a heart attack.) He has to leave in the quietest and simplest way possible without too much heartache.  In the end it is probably too much for him to bear.

William Franklin Barker plays Andrew and tries so delicately to end the relationship.  But he doesn’t bargain for the response, this long nightmarish onslaught of words, when all he wants is to go to bed, get up the next morning, and get on an airplane to London. The fact that his partner won’t let him go to sleep is probably the reason he is leaving. Barker is marvelous in the role.

Wendy Radford plays Dee and she is not waiting around for her partner to satisfy for her physical needs. I found Dee’s relationship with her partner puzzling because she was the most detached, didn’t care where her partner was going to go, and was cold in her approach to dissolve the relationship. That doesn’t mean that it was bad, just different and fascinating.   Radford did a fine job.

Kelly Coffield Park is Joanna and she is absolutely wonderful.  Every moment played to perfection from the moment she is screaming at the inebriated partygoers, driving away from her home, to the miserable indignities she must endure when the cab arrives.  It is one of the most captivating performances I’ve seen all year.

David Youse is also incredible as Joseph. He tries mighty hard to keep the relationship intact. His inclination to move forward with the relationship dies a disrespectful death and he quails inwardly wondering where to turn and who to turn to.  Still, he gives his censorious rant trying to find a clue as to why his partner is leaving. He finds nothing until he is an entangled mass of suffering human flesh. Wow!  What a performance!

Nick DeGruccio, the director, did a fantastic job in this very complicated show, creating magnificent relationships, and interplay between couples.  Each couple, have their own relationship, their own peculiarities, at their own time.  One can look at this and say: Well it was just one couple.  Still another one would say: it was definitely three couples going through the end of relationship and they are similar even though the three are different types of couples, a man and a woman, two men, and two women. The actors, sitting on chairs near the wings, never lost their intention as though they had to step back and reexamine the steps needed to salvage the relationship once they got back into the ring. One of the things I loved was the rectangular see through scrims that hung upstage. They looked like picture frames.  DeGruccio places the characters behind the scrim as though they were photographs, fading photographs at that. Degruccio did a remarkable job!

This show is heartbreaking.  It is so heartbreaking that you leave the theatre wanting to embrace anyone who has experienced the same thing.

Steven Young did a remarkable job as the Lighting Designer.

The Costume Designer was Morgan DeGroff.

Sound Design was by Ollie Marland and was very effective on this night.

Ken Werther is the Press Representation.

And the Production Stage Manager was Todd Nielsen.

Wonderfully produced by End LA & Scott Disharoon.

Run!  Run!  Run!  And take someone who has loved and lost.


LA 90046


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