Saturday, February 22, 2014

Nocturne by Adam Rapp

George Regout - Photo by Ute Ville

By Joe Straw

He, The Son (George Regout) came in and sat as though he were going to sell his book, Nocturne.  Isn’t that the purpose of a book signing?  He is obviously in a bookstore, one can tell by the bookshelf, the books neatly layered as if they were steps to heaven, all just a few notes behind him.

Irma Productions Presents “Nocturne” written by Adam Rapp and directed by Justin Ross featuring George Regout in his North American stage debut through March 9, 2014 at The Other Space @ The Actors Company, 916A N. Formosa Avenue, West Hollywood 90046.  

But, he didn’t sign one book, not one.  The books were, all there, in front of him, on the desk. Not one signature. Pity.  And there wasn’t anyone buying either. Double Pity.

I want you to come to me and sell me your book, damn it, Kindle or hardcover, it matters little.  

Another purpose was to read something from the book, and he did that. He had a strange accent, almost foreign sounding, from someone who was from the Midwest, better yet Joliet, Illinois, but then a lot of people living in the United States have accents.  

But why quibble about accents?  We were there to listen to the word, his words, or as near as the truth we could get for someone who remembered everything that hurt.  And the words poured from his lips, offering us a prowess of inscrutable intentions and still severely hurting from grief. And things did hurt, because beyond that hurt, things were connected. Scars so deep, and pain like rapids running over rocks. It’s a wonder his heart kept beating.

“Fifteen years ago I killed my sister.” – The Son

But despite the pain his heart beats on, tragically, skipping here and there, thump, thump-thump.  

And somehow it is all connected, the percussion instrument we know as a piano, now watching the back of his hand move, and trying to find a simple correlation between death and the three hundred pound elephant that is not in the room, the piano.    

“The piano doesn’t sing.  It sobs.  It aches without release.  Like a word that can’t wrench itself from the throat.”

Nocturne: Grieg’s, Chopin’s, Tchaikovsky’s, take your solemn pick  

The Son is a former pianist, was a child prodigy of sorts, winning the smaller competitions and losing the larger ones.  (Why is art a competition?) Suddenly he finds himself behind the wheel of a used ‘69 Buick Electra doing 45 in a 30 mile per hour on a residential street coming home from Sub-Diggity, a summer job, deciding not to stop but to speed past.  

Why was a prodigy working at Sub-Diggity?

“We’ve lived on Gael Drive for most of my life.  My mother, Jan; my father, Earl; and my little sister and I.”

And then there was a swerve, a thud, culminating into an unfortunate tragedy, resulting in a reality with far-reaching consequences, and the destruction, no, the total annihilation of a family.  

And still, he is selling a book.

Nocturne, by Adam Rapp, in his exquisite brilliance, takes credit for this superb play. It’s pictorial beauty and the inclusion of sound lends itself to an overall emotional satisfaction of night in the theatre.  Also the play lends itself to be open to many interpretations and creative choices.  And in this case the creative choices are in the hands of the director, Justin Ross, and the actor George Regout.

As a visceral component, Nocturne is visually stunning, and what makes it so is the Lighting Design by R. Christopher Stokes, and the wonderful Production Design by Carol Strober, which transports us to various places in The Son’s life. 

But while mood lighting takes us to other places it’s not completely clear the actor or the director has made a definitive choice to the place or his mental being on stage in that place.  So we have an actor who is not purposefully moving to a spot, and telling us his unique moment, at a unique moment in his time, even though it’s been 15 years.  

Plain and simple, The Son, is trying to sell books.  That’s why he is there.  And he does so with diligence, so much so, that he goes back to the book and reads on a number of occasions.  But then he mentally steps away and relives the tragedy that haunts his very being. Is he still reading?  Or does he step away into private moments to relive something that is not in the book?  One is not sure from this performance.

Yes, it has been 15 years since his sister was killed but that doesn’t mean the pain is less great, or the pictures less vivid, and Regout has the opportunity to succumb to the bottom rung of the emotional ladder with an outpouring of emotions that somehow never comes.

Also one must never lose sight of the piano that is constantly playing, the chords, the notes, and the music that must take him away to emotional unchartered territories.

“A C-sharp.  The death of a small bird.  An F.  A stranded car’s horn bleating for help on the highway….An aluminum bat hitting a ball is one of the greatest notes of July. A D, I think. A split-second song.  A little chink of hope.”

Justin Ross, the director, has made the choice that Nocturne is about forgiveness in the program he states, “ On closer inspection, however, it (the play) reveals itself to be a universal story of forgiveness – forgiveness of oneself and of others.” But in order for the through line to be about forgiveness, The Son must seek forgiveness, to beg for forgiveness, to demand forgiveness, he must go to the object that is calling him and implore forgiveness whether it is from his parents, the piano, or us the audience members.  

The characters – Jan his mother, Earl his father, and his sister, all portrayed by Regout – necessitate additional development thus creating a distinctive personality for each character, especially the sister.  The beautiful nine-year-old sister who was so funny, and someone who was always by his side coloring as he played the piano, actions that require a portrayal of a beautiful life.  

“She proposed marriage to me at least once a week.  She’d go to a knee and say, Marry me, you big hunk of yummy boy steak.”

There is a dog, a bird, a green plastic trashcan, and a miskicked football before the musicless “thud”.
 Each time The Son remembers this, it must take us on an emotional journey and we must feel his impotent despair.  

“She imitated dogs.  She would get down on all fours and howl at the siren from a distant fire truck.”

George Regout - Photo by Ute Ville

George Regout, The Son, does a very fine job and is a fine acting specimen.  Finding a strong emotional core always works best for me and if that is not possible on a given night then physically working toward the objective is the next best thing. The Son is an entangled mass of differing emotional thoughts that, one day, will come to his senses.  For the actor it is discovering those demonstrative moments that clears the character's emotional path to a better life.   

Justin Ross, the director, also does some fine work. The play is ninety minutes and one hopes the moments that take you in a specific direction plays to perfection. But in reality, nothing is ever perfect.  One just hopes on any given night the choices hit all the right notes.

Gregory David Mayo, Executive Producer, does an amazing job bringing the show and the talent to Los Angeles.

Mike Abramson is the Producer.

The Production Stage Manager is Valerie Salas.

Christopher Moscatiello, responsible for the Sound Design, brings a wonderful natural element of sound that only adds to a wonderful night of theatre.

Ken Werther Publicity is the Press Representative.

Allison Schenker is the Production Carpenter.

Brandon Devaney did a very nice job with the Graphic Design along with Brad Steinbauer who did the Program Layout.

Production Photos by Ute Ville.

Run! Run!  And take someone who wants to understand his/her emotional self after grieving.  

Reservations:  323-960-4443

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