Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Transition by Ray Richmond


By Joe Straw

The Lounge Theatre is probably one of my favorite theatres in town. There are plenty of parking spots on Santa Monica Boulevard if you get there after 7:00 pm.

Racquel Lehrman Theatre Planner, Producer, has a knack for finding the small gems.

Transition by Ray Richmond and directed by Lee Costello is now playing at The Lounge Theatre in Hollywood through April 16th, 2017.

Transition by Ray Richmond is a small gem and a delightful night of theatre. It’s not sketch comedy, pointed satire, or a caricature of famous people; rather it is a well-crafted 80-minute topical play about President Obama’s meeting with President-elect Trump to discuss the transition process. Overall, Transition is ingenious and as close to perfection, especially for a new work of art, as one can get.

That said, Ray Richmond’s play has the capacity to expand and certainly there’s plenty to add from the events becoming public on a daily basis.  We’ll never really know what the two talked about, but for this particular play, there is room for the Russian connections, double agent Mike Flynn’s payment from Turkey, Manafort’s million dollars deal from the Ukraine, and Trump’s reaction from all of those events.  But right now. the events play as a comedy, a very good comedy, and probably should remain so.

That said, Transition is at times uncomfortable, no matter what side of the fence you sit on. For me, there was the internal struggle to maintain composure. And boy howdy, wouldn’t I have loved to have been a “microwave” in the real meeting.

Pete Hickok, Set Designer, has created the Oval Office and paid careful attention to details in giving us the oval space inside the Lounge Theatre, down to the lettering on the floor, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. What a very nice touch.  

The play opens with Randall, an aide (Trevor Alkazian), showing President-elect Donald J. Trump (Harry S. Murphy) into the Oval Office for a transition meeting with President Barack H. Obama (Joshua Wolf Coleman).

Trump seeks the whereabouts of President Obama.

“What’s he doing?  Talking to ISIS?” – Trump

Trump then threatens to deport the aide, which causes concern to the young aide whose skin is not exactly white.    

Obama arrives and Trump immediately says he’s hungry and wants some KFC. Obama sets the rules straight to him, says they have world-class chefs at the White House, but they can’t do the KFC thing.

So they settle down with Cuban cigars and bottle water for which Trump says it should have his brand on it.  

Obama says the can’t do that “Self enrichment is not good.” To which Trump says the rule don’t apply to him.

Harry S. Murphy applies his own special vanity to the likeness of Donald J. Trump, always primping, thinking, and talking to himself. This Trump understands little, is profoundly disturbed by his lack on knowledge on any given subject with the exception of pop culture, and really has no aptitude for the presidency.   Also, this Trump is also slightly nasty, a button pusher, and willing to concede his own failings all in the privacy of the Oval Office. Murphy provides enough of the character, an imitation of sorts, and an indolent personality of the three dimensional character.  Murphy also shows an incredible range in his craft and portrays a different side to the character we know as Trump.  And he even makes him likeable, go figure.

Joshua Wolf Coleman does a remarkable job as President Barack Obama and even sounds like him during the course of the night. The voice is almost spot on.  But what make’s Coleman performance different from sketch comedy is the way he thinks and approaches the difficulties set before him.  Only once does he lose his cool.  That doesn’t pay off except to the appreciative audience. We see little or nothing about the Russian connection of which President Obama was certainly aware, or that he knew anything about it.  It might be something to add to his character whether it is in the dialogue or not.  

Trevor Alkazian is very appealing as the aide and manages to accept our sympathies given the circumstances he finds himself in.

There is something quite extraordinary in Lee Costello’s direction.  She allows the actors to think, to take the moment, to recover and then attack when need be. This happens throughout the play and for all the characters.  On the face of things, it looks simple, the approach she uses to move the characters along to their final destination, but those moments are dramatically appealing and the outcome is superb.

After the performance Hip Hop Artist Dylan came out to perform.  The performance was pleasant but one was not sure how it fit with the play.

Kate Bergh, Costume Designer, creates a wonderful look to the show.

Other members of the crew that gave a great look to this production are as follows:

Donny Jackson – Lighting Designer
David B. Marling – Sound Designer
Shelia Dorn – Makeup and Wig
Kiff Scholl/AFK Design – Graphic Designer
Fritz Davis – Video Editor
Misha Riley – Assistant Producer
Amber Bruegel – Alternate State Manager

Run! Run!  And take a conservative political wonk with you; you’ll have much to talk about on your way home.  

RESERVATIONS: (323) 960-4418.
ONLINE TICKETING: www.Plays411.com/transition

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