Monday, February 3, 2014

Sunny Afternoon by Christian Levatino

Darrett Sanders

By Joe Straw

On a sunny afternoon, a barrage of noise accompanied a limo carrying the President of the United States. Tires growled and grumbled crossed the pavement down Elm Street in Dealey Plaza. The motorcade’s cycle popping caused sound reverberations to bounce back from nearby structures.  Bystanders, thinning now, shouted hello, waiving to the occupants, and in a moment of an enormous silence, a lone man listened to the sputtering clicking sound of 8 millimeter camera which filled the empty plot, ‘till a noise, like firecrackers, erupted from all around, pinging bullets, piercing metal, and bone fragments dinged the trunk, as silent gloves slapped the back side of the limo, for pieces, and fingernails, a quick sharp scratch, moving to retrieve them, knees pounding on the trunk forcing her back in and the sound of an engine, speeding off under the bridge, and out of sound.     

Andy Hirsch

Lee Harvey Oswald (Andy Hirsch) sat with his back to us, 24 years old, handcuffed, t-shirt, jeans and work boots, hands behind his back, on a green government office chair, alone, attenuated body, for what seemed like an eternity. Slightly struggling against the cuffs, looking for a weakness, holding one hand in another, he wasn’t going anywhere, and he would just have to wait, and contemplate the events of the day, until they came back.  

And the sounds of those events from Dealey Plaza were now multiplied a thousand fold as intense, suffocating noise from which most humans wince, but Oswald took it all in stride, or he didn’t let the effects of the days events show.   

But, deep down Oswald was not able to turn it off, those human beings wanting answers, incidents playing back in his head, repeated questions in the Homicide and Robbery Division.  Everyone was eager for answers, the police in the room, the reporters outside in the hallway, the chief in his office, the whole building, Texas, the nation, the world. All sounds wonderfully and masterfully created by Sound Designer, John Zalewski, blasting information, a thunderstorm of questions, noises, coming from innumerable sources.

Sunny Afternoon, written and directed by Christain Levatino, about the Kennedy assassination, and with all its prodigious improbability, is wonderfully intense, dramatic, and fulfilling drama that has finished its run at The Asylum Theatre in Hollywood.    

And what do we do hear when we get back into real time in the office?  Well, talk about professional football, the NFL, and what Jim Brown is going to do this Sunday, in a year when it seemed that no one could stop him. And, of course, despite the irreverent intention, this was to soften up, our boy Oswald, until the real hard questions come.

But lack of time plays hard tricks on questions not bellowed forth.  And if they did it is with certitude that Oswald won’t answer those inquiries, because he wants legal representation, and he’s not about to answer the tough questions.   

Police Captain William Fritz (Darrett Sanders), an equable man, loves the feel of the pigskin in his hands, tossing it around when he needs to find answers.  He keeps it low key in his office as he shuffles from one side of the office to the other, possibly a football injury nagging his back, or kicking his desk one too many times. Sanders have a very good look, does an incredible job in this role, slightly understated, analytical, very real, with a lot of humor.

Lee Harvey Oswald (Andy Hirsch) wants legal representation.  Something in his life has gone horribly wrong.  But it’s not right to kill a police officer especially when 12 citizens can positively identify, you as the killer. Or did he? Captured, the words coming out of Oswald are repetitive as though they were rehearsed time and time again, a 24 year old self proclaimed patsy, who got in way over his head. Love the ending when Oswald knew it was all coming to an end, on the phone with “George”, sweet-talking “George”. Hirsch does an amazing job in this role.

Seated Andy Hirsch - Left, Christian Levatino - Right, Dustin Sisney 

And just when you’ve got your man, leave it to two crack detectives Detective Elmer Boyd (LQ Victor aka Christian Levatino) and Detective Dick Simms (Dustin Sisney) who can’t even take the time to take the bullets out of Oswald’s pockets.  Each slammed by lack of effectiveness, especially Boyd, who appeared to have aspirations of being a rock and roll songwriter, and speaks faster than he thinks all to great comic effect. Levatino was in the stratosphere with this character, finely defined and oddly unique. (“Oh, we’re doing that kind of acting.”) And Sisney was a very welcomed counterpart.

FBI Agent James P Hosty (Patrick Flanagan) is mad about something though what he is mad about one is not quite sure. Hosty assigned to watch Oswald got a little too close to Marina, Oswald’s wife, harassing her at one point causing him to lunge at this agent.  If Hosty wants Oswald out of the picture (dead), then the actions should lead him in that direction. 

FBI Agent James Bookout (Jim Boelsen) doesn’t have much to say but makes it a point to see everything going on in that office without commenting on anything. He is obviously a man who takes copious mental notes and will quietly stay there until he gets answers. Boelsen also plays the role of a reporter. He has a good look and a strong presence.

Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Donnie Smith), the agent, who eventually got the Zapruder film, had blood all over his shirt as he enters the office (for reasons which are not entirely clear.)   He is in a state of anguish and wants answers from Oswald. At one point he reaches into Oswald’s pockets and pulls out a number of bullets much to the displeasure of Police Captain William Fritz who kicks in the side of his desk, maybe once too many times in his career. Sorrels knew of the constant threats and felt helpless in this situation. Smith has a fascinating presence on stage and understands the craft. 

Police Chief Jesse Curry (Gil Glasgow) comes in, and like everyone else wants answers, “Goddamit”.  He’s getting too old for this job and certainly is not ready for the events and the personnel surrounding him.  At this point in his career it’s all about survival and he’s got to accept all that’s thrown his way, accept it, and then move on, “Goddamit.” Glasgow does some very fine work but there is another layer or another element to this character missing?

Assistant DA Bill Alexander (Patrick Hume) has a very sinister side.  Supposedly working on behalf of the people, he is obviously (in this play) working for another entity giving information to a person named “Jack”.  This is an interesting man who may have his own best interest at heart, being the Assistant DA now, and not the DA.  He has a vested interest in one man who is playing behind the scenes. Hume’s choice of pulling out the gun and putting it near Oswald’s head doesn’t work because nothing is resolved and the scene is slightly off coloured.

District Attorney Henry Wade (Michael Franco) pops in from time to time, yelling about something, not getting what he wants, and walking right out of the Chief’s office. Franco does a fine job but one wishes for character choices that give him more depth.

Clarence Shoemake (Giovanni Adams) shakes things up during the course of the questioning and provides some much needed information about the makeup of the people involved during the course of the questioning.  He is simple and direct and a person with valued opinions and most willing to share despite having the job of janitor.  Adams choices are vibrant and his manner on stage is crystal clear.  

Postal Inspector H.D. Holmes (Corryn Cummins) has some really important information to impart to the detectives in the office.  But is it really important or another smokescreen? One question:  The Postal Inspector?  Cummins does some really fine work but where is the character going?  What does she get from this?  What is the conflict?

Christian Levatino, the writer and director, gives us a very interesting play without answers to the assassination.  There is an implication from the tenebrous visitor (Mark St. Amant*) that he may have been involved, and then there’s another phone call from  “George” (not seen), a co-conspirator.  This makes the play a conspiracy within a conspiracy. And while Levatino is sure footed in his directing skills, the play is slightly sighted when it comes to the relationships.  It misses a strong moment when we learn that Lee Harvey Oswald is finally being charged with killing the President.  First he is thought of as a cop killer (bad enough) but now he is charged with killing the President and the characters appear to treat him in the same fashion.  There are people in that room that want him dead for killing a cop and after they get additional information there are some in the room that want to put a medal on him.  We know going in that this play is about a conspiracy and we leave knowing that it’s a conspiracy, but Levatino gives us more with Coke (things go better with Coca Cola, things go better with Coke) and the hypnotic effect of Coke on the brain after the brainwashing and after it has been ingested.   But is there a point?  Is there a lesson to be learned here?  

The Warren Commission Report is inadequate at best, the devil is in the details, and with many distortions we may never know the truth.  Still, there is a lot of information out there if one is willing to dig. For example: How is it that no one is able to confirm the bullets recovered from JD Tippit’s body came from Oswald’s gun?  No one.  Really?  

“However, the bullets taken from Tippit's body could not be positively identified as having been fired from Oswald's revolver as the bullets were too extensively damaged to make conclusive assessments.” - Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, pp. 466–473, Testimony of Cortlandt Cunningham. Warren Commission Hearings, vol. 3, p. 511, Testimony of Joseph D. Nicol.

When you have ballistic evidence like this.

The Identification of Bullets Fired from 10 Consecutively Rifled 9mm Ruger Pistol Barrels: A Research Project Involving
507 Participants from 20 Countries
By: James E. Hamby, Ph.D., International Forensic Science Laboratory & Training Centre, Indianapolis, IN, David J. Brundage, M.S., Independent Examiner, Nashville, TN and James W. Thorpe, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer (Retired), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland

Key Words: Automated Land Identification System (ALIS), BulletTRAX-3D®, consecutively rifled barrels, criteria for identification, Daubert, firearms identification, fired bullets, SciClops®, scientific research

Wonderfully produced by Corryn Cummins, Leon Shanglebee, and Matthew Quinn.

*Mark St. Amant is an astonishing actor who presents himself as another man when he is E. Howard Hunt, a nefarious maniacal character and a CIA operative who is calling the shots.  Amant gives Hunt a mystical quality, a man careful not to make mistakes, and is a man who covers all bases.  There is a moment that is picture perfect.  Hunt forgets something, comes back, and corrects his error. It is a moment that Amant plays to perfection. 

The gangbusters theatre company also employs a fantastic crew for this production in which everything worked, and the details were perfected. They are as follows:
Lighting Design:  Matt Richter
Set Design:  David Mauer
Costumes:  Kaitlyn Aylward
Projections:  Mike Gratzmiller
Scenic Builder:  Zack Guiler
Scenic Painter: Marine Walton
Associate Producer:  Donald A. Smith
Stage Management:  Alyssa Champo
Assistant Director/ASM:  Daniel Coronel
Publicity:  Phil Sokoloff
Art, Graphic Design, Web: Nicholas Freeman, Fontaine, D’enny Patterson
Social Media:  Corryn Cummins
Photography:  James Storm
Programs:  Amanda Mauer

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