Sunday, February 9, 2020

Gifted by Bob DeRosa

Ross Philips and Kacie Rogers

By Joe Straw

He said he was a “disaster dreamer”.  His visions, he believed blasted into his collective consciousness turning night into a colorful catastrophic apparition.

Most of his visions were airplane crashes, falling from the sky, riding in terror, waiting for the impact, and then walking away.  He said all of those events came to pass.

He’s also had them during the waking hours of the day - sometimes as a strong visual - a captured daydream  - like the Jonestown Massacre, a flash of a TV camera, an airplane, and gunfire.

After trying a few times to convince someone, anyone, without much success, he moved along. Others told him that a thing like that was not possible. No one believed it or they took note and just forgot about it.   

He told his wife about a dream -  fire falling from the sky - that would change the world forever  - and she just stared at him as though he were crazy. Usually his apparitions came to him within two weeks and that one was the week before 9/11/2001.

The dreams come now with less frequency he says, but they still come, like little nightmares that awaken the senses.

Now, strangely enough, they come as emotional outpourings, knowing something is wrong and something is coming.  – Narrator.

Sacred Fools Theater Company presents the world-premiere of Gifted written by Bob DeRosa, directed by Rebecca Larsen and produced by Bruno Oliver at The Broadwater through February 17, 2019 in Hollywood.

It starts with sounds, background noises, in a bar that seems to overtake the dialogue. A coin falls on the floor and a man (Jason Jin) seeing the woman Ashlyn (Kacie Rogers) pick up the coin, he bets that he can always tell which side it will land.

How this man manages it is beyond belief, a trick, something he sees, the look in her eyes, he listens as the coin flops down upon the skin of the stranger - incredible that something would give him the right answer every time.

Ashlyn has come back to her hometown, forgetting something she has left. (The location is not mentioned in the program but one imagines it is near Boulder, Colorado.) She regales her journey to the bartender (Marc Forget) before her friends arrives.

John Ellsworth Phillips and Madeleine Heil

Ashley meets with her platonic friend Matt (John Ellsworth Phillips) who knows her gift as he prowls the dance floor looking for his soul mate.  Unfortunately Ashley can tell, watching him and his companion together, whether she is Miss Right or Miss Wrong.  And at some point Matt is frustrated that all of them, looking so right, are visualized as Miss Erroneous.

Ashlyn, working in a bookstore finds Randy (Ross Phillips) searching for a book for his little brother.  Ashley suggests the book “The Hobbit” and then she blurts out “coffee”.

This leads them to a date where the waitress Lisa (Madeleine) knows what they want before they do.

Ashlyn, curious about her powers speaks to Lisa.  Lisa invites her to a group she belongs to, a group of people with special gifts. Lisa invites her to an informal gathering to discuss their uniqueness.  Marla (Libby Baker), Gary (Marc Forget) husband to Charlotte (Carrie Keranen) and Beth (Alessandra Mañon) are all a part of that group.

The best you can say about Bob DeRosa is his play Gifted is always lively and very different - a psychic romantic comedy. The play of ordinary people flows evenly, girl meets boy, girl loses boy, and girl waits for her boy to come back.  But, there is a time element missing here, slight confusion as to where we are in time, day or night, where one gets lost in the mystical events happening on stage leading to, for lack of a better word, the denouement.  This element of time is not defined and does not progress in a manner that gives the actor’s a strong purpose or objective.  Perhaps that was DeRosa’s purpose. In the psychic world time is transcended, but in a theatrical world time reflects the urgency of a keen objective or through line.  

One keeps thinking of the meeting on top of a skyscraper - An Affair to Remember, or Sleepless in Seattle where a love eagerly waits impatiently, and inside that person a hunger persists as the waiting suddenly becomes one realized moment.

But, someone has to wait, someone has to want, and we have to feel it.

This is the one thing missing from Rebecca Larsen’s direction.  And, maybe one just missed it on the arena stage with a character’s back turned. (e.g., Ashlyn view couples dancing and knows by way of psychic powers, which couples will last. But while we’re noticing the couples dancing, we miss the theatrical physical performance and emotional life of what Ashlyn is experiencing through her vision, and that’s something that needs highlighting, and needs to be a little more theatrical.) (As an action to a psychic event think Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone.)

The acting from this troupe is well above par.  The actors dance as well under Tavi Stutz’s choreography and they do this very well.

One likes to think the play started at the end, went back in time, and moved to its final conclusion. Ashlyn comes back to her dusty purlieus and finds out if her true love will come back to her, or not. Whether it is imagined one can’t say but that’s how I saw it.  And it all makes theatrical sense, a stronger objective in the wait, as we discover just how this all came about.

Libby Baker is exceptional as Marla, a woman who thinks she has it all under control but really doesn’t.  Marla is the facilitator of the group.  She has a calm and friendly demeanor, but manages to let things get out of control. Marla is instrumental in keeping the group in focus with a calm demeanor.  Where the character is going, one is not too sure.

Marc Forget has a couple of roles as Gary and the Bartender and they are not much different from each other.  While both characters have a measure of reality there is a little more to add to Gary a man who has wayward eyes and a husband who is ready and willing to leave his relationship.

Madelieine Heil is Lisa the person who knows exactly what you want.  Heil fits exquisitely into the role and manages to find true love in the end.  It is a marvelous performance.

Jason Jin plays a couple of roles and manages to be sensational in each. Jin is an actor with extreme concentration and gives off a familiarity as though you’ve seen him in many roles. Excellent work.

Carrie Keranen

Carrie Keranen plays Charlotte with an unfamiliar regional accent, something peculiar, and unpredictable that makes you want to keep an eye on her.  Charlotte floats in an inebriated state.  She and her husband are the only couple at the gathering.  She soars around him giving others the impressions to keep their hands off. (Little does she realize.)  Keranen craft is fluid, unpredictable, and ambiguous enough that makes for a fascinating night’s performance.

Alessandra Mañon plays a couple of characters Becca and Beth.  One is not sure which character was hanging from the ceiling in the dance move.  It was probably Becca and probably something you don’t see often in intimate theatres. Mañon is successful on all fronts.  

Ross Philips is Randy the man who buys his little brother “The Hobbit”.  Philips is very likeable in this performance.  He wants to understand his girlfriend but has no clue as to what she is all about.  He is left in the dark. There is an important moment when he leaves the relationship, without question, he should be more adamant about coming back.  

John Ellsworth Phillips plays Matt, a young man who believes that every woman he is interest in will be his for life.  Unfortunately, his psychic friend, clues him in to the reality. Phillips has a very strong presence on stage and is mostly funny throughout the night.

Kacie Rogers and Marc Forget

Kacie Rogers is exceptional as Ashlyn a woman who can tell which couples should be together. Her kryptonite is that she can’t tell for herself and her companion.  Her psychic abilities fall short in that area. Everyone who comes through the door at the end should be the one she is looking for, with no exception, and that should stay with her until the conclusion. It is her objective and her reason for being. That said there was some incredible work going on here.

Jamie Robledo, Sound Design, has some really nice sound effects.  The flipping of the coin worked perfectly the night I was there.  

Understudies who did not perform the night I was there are as follows: Ellie Bensinger, J. Bailey Burcham, Jennifer Christina DeRosa, Sydney Hawes, Madeleine Hernandez, Cameron Ley, Bree Pavy, and Marc Antonio Pritchett.

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Bruno Oliver – Lead Producer
J. Bailey Burcham – Associate Producer
Madylin Sweeten Durrie – Production Designer
Sofija Dutcher – Stage Manager
Joe Hernandez-Kolski – Associate Producer
Nikki Muller – Assistant Director
Matt Richter – Lighting Designer

Run! Run! Run! And take someone you know who has the gift.  Both of you will be surprised and enlightened.

The Sacred Fools Theater Company
The Broadwater Black Box
1078 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA  90038  

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