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Adieu Jacques/Noel Harrison One Man Tribute To Jacques Brel
Tom Provenzano (**Recommended**) LA Weekly
In some ways like a male Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel was part of the psyche of French society.His music and lyrics touched the French soul, as Brel dispensed far more personal vulnerability than his contemporary masculine counterparts of the 1960's. The 1970s American hit musical Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris introduced this country to the catchy rhythms and devilishly delightful tunes that Brel created, but the show's English lyrics reinvented Brel into a pop musician rather than the pained, soulful talent he was to Parisians. Over the past dozen years, British actor-singer Noel Harrison has been retooling and touring this splendid tribute to Brel that offers the songs in their native tongue, with just enough English explanation to give us the gist of the literal meaning. The sound and performance of the songs themselves reveals the music's heartfelt truths. Harrison plays guitar and sings in a beautifully rough voice as he introduces us to the artist. Jeff Murray's gentle direction keeps the short evening on track, leaving us with an enduring understanding of the late singer's emotional depth.
Noel Harrison's Adieu, Jacques:The Life & Music of Jacques Brel is as much a concert as it is a play. One feels as one listens as though one were the Queen or King of England and Jacques had dropped by to provide entertainment for visiting royalty, say, the Empress of Siam. One leaves feeling privileged to have heard the finest music this side of Bobby Short at the Carlyle.
Noel Harrison, who both wrote and performs this tribute, has put together a beautiful, moving piece, at once autobiographical - he tells much about himself - and biographical. We leam in the course of the evening the central events of Jacques Brel's short career. We learn about his meteonc rise to fame, about his struggle with celebrity and fame, and about his last years of life. The narrative is held together by Noel Harrison's charming asides. He offers comments on his own life and explains how he was touched and inspired by Jacques Brel. He speaks only fleetingly of his own father, Rex Harrison, and of his own acting career. Noel is a disarmingly humble figure, graceful, witty, and dignified. Some Americans are suckers for an English accent, especially when it comes out of the mouth of a suave gentleman of some age. I know I am. Is it that thoroughly un-American combination of sophistication and masculinity that makes them so exotic? Maybe. I can't explain it but I have heard that the squealing female masses thought the rather rough necked Beatles sophisticated, so perhaps I am on to something. In any case, Noel Harrison possesses this "foreign" charm, and it is doubtful many would find themselves immune to it. He dresses plainly enough, wearing dark jeans, and a black shirt. He spoke of Nova Scotia, and one can easily picture thls fellow m the rugged north,. Somehow up there as is the case in _Kentucky and the wilder parts of Arkansas, men feel as comfortable holding a guitar as they do a pitchfork.. Noel possesses this ease. He reminded me of a slender, perhaps softer Johnny Cash.The music is good. Noel offers a translation before he begins singing, and closes with a fewwords to give each song greater meaning and biographical context.The set is as unpretentious as the man. A desk, a chair, and an antique typewriter. Noel doesn't do a lot of moving around, but what action there is, works. The music by Jacques Brel was new to me. He wrote with passion and vitality. It was not possible for me to understand all of the Iyrics, but with Noel's translahons, their central meaning came through. More than a little of the man and his era remains with me to this day. Reviewed by David Lohrey
It's 1982 and Greenwich Village is locked in party mode, blissfully unnaware Of the hangover awaiting it from AIDS, cocaine dependency and recession. Sal (John DiFusco) is a music club manager, a high strung
padrone' who allows his charges to dip into the tiII while
demanding complete personaI allegiance from them
Like other bar/restaurant comedy dramas Steven Simons script is a play of types. Theres the queeny
Puerta Rican dishwasher (Julian Reyes) the long sufferingchef
(Howard Mongo) the aspiring actor (playwright Simon) the coked-up barterlder
(Michael E Dempsey)
the put-upon waitresses (tamar Reskin and Joanne Petrone)
the party-animal cashier M. 04
Sivertsen) and the otintuddus patron (Mark Duane Sivertsen) and the obnoxious patron ( michelangelo Kowalski). Most of the play concerns the mad careening
of these characters lives Jim and how they all fail SaL As .
such, Simows play is A crackling comedy of personalities
and stepped on toes.
All his people are well delineated and director for Che Rae Adams couldnt ask for a better cast
Mungo as the harried black chef stands stands out in a portrait of anger and delusion, The maddening downside to this play is its abrupt change in focus. Amid the swirl of karma collisions, the ambivalence of Gary, the actor-bartender, seems to form the play's moral dilemma (should he fuck a director to land role in a play?). But out of the blue the whole story A shifts whenthe thrashing of an unruly customer has serious consequences for Sal and the club. Suddenly the personal debates' concerns go from the metaphorical to the literal,and we go from Bouncers to 12Angry Men. The change never quite seems beleivable
Reviewed By Travis Michael Holder For BACKSTAGE WEST
presented by the Link Theatre Foundation at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Mon.-Tue. 8 p.m. Mar. 15-Apr. 6. $12. (323) 954-1188. Link Theatre has chosen an odd name for, as they put it, "three short plays [dealing] with the precarious balance of society and its institutions." This is a stretch; the plays are instead three unrelated one-acts that showcase the talents of their group. Of course there's nothing wrong with that beyond misleading marketing.
Open Meeting is an interesting curiosity if, for no other reason, than because it confirms that A.R. Gurney, the great chronicler of the eastern seaboard W.A.S.P., has a gift for writing the absurd. Three people come into their weekly meeting debating whether to continue efforts to bring about sociopolitical change without the leadership of their Washington liaison, who has failed to show. He has instead sent a note to his trusted cohort, penned in his "ungenerous pinched handwriting," suggesting they abort the meeting. Later, rifling through his abandoned briefcase, the others find a file marked, "Plans to turn America into an oligarchy." Directed by Iris Blair, this is a refreshingly nonsensical work of intellectual fluff, fun from the get-go, but played too frenetically for Theatre/Theater's tiny Theatre B. Stephanie Geyer and Steve Altman work far too hard, yet Chris Carrier, as the youthful idealist of the trio, could give them a lesson that moderation is best. His work stands out head and shoulders above the others, with a sweet delivery that remains focused and less overdone even when he flies off the handle.
Ara Watson's Final Placement is a touching piece about a social worker's confrontation with the mother of a child removed into foster care, sincerely directed by Zev Berman. It is nicely acted by Susan M. Baker, haunting as the lost soul of a mother; the clarity and earnestness of Elizabeth Varela's performance as the social worker is somewhat done in by the use of a terrible Southern accent. This is followed by a monologue from Arthur Kopit's End of the World performed by Michael O'Rourke during a set change, which would be more powerful--even chilling--if he also stayed simpler and less overwrought in his choices.
The final piece is Eric Sanders' The Heliopause, an arresting and heartbreaking confrontation between a Tutsi woman and the lifelong Hutu neighbor who murdered her family while emotionally fueled by the 1994 ethnic sweep of Rwanda. Strikingly directed by Paul Goldberg, Malcolm Foster Smith and Judy Theadora Marcelline give indelible, wrenching performances in the roles, closing the evening impressively. This oddly poetic little play and particularly the resplendent work of Marcelline--as well Carrier's work-prove to be the most successful and memorable aspects of The Clap.
LA WEEKLY: The Clap: Three Short Plays About Social Disease
This trio of one-acts leads with A.R. Gurney's pungent political satire, "The Open Meeting," in which a corporate conniver (Steve Altman), a bright-eyed activist (Chris Carrier) and a smug conciliator (Stephanie Geyer) clash over whether to proceed sans the input of a mysterious Washington operative named Dick. Policy matters swiftly spiral into power plays, and under Iris Bahr's direction, the savvy ensemble milks the material's timely irony. Directed by Zev Berman, Ara Watson's "Final Placement" portrays an encounter between an attractive social worker (Elizabeth Varela) and a down-at-her-heels client (Susan M. Baker), who's suspected of physically abusing her 4-year-old child. A documentarylike voiceover holds this simplistic script together. The performances are earnest, especially the sullen, menacing Baker's, but their intensity doesn't translate into the gritty reality that's aimed for. Set in Rwanda in the aftermath of civil war, Eric Sanders' bitter, eloquent play "The Heliopause" makes a wrenching point about the atrocity of war and the banality of evil. Two former neighbors from opposing tribes - a housewife (Judy Theadora Marcelline) and a younger man (Malcolm Foster Smith) she'd watched grow into manhood - meet again on her porch, where he pleads forgiveness for the unforgivable act of having murdered her family. Here the intensity of both play and performance are as mesmerizing as their import is horrific. Paula Goldberg directs. Link Theater Foundation at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Mon.-Tues., 8 p.m.; thru April 6. (323) 954-1188. Written 03/25/2004 (Deborah Klugman)
CREEPS by David Freeman directed by Jeff Murray May 1982
LOS ANGELES TIMES"An Insider
Gives Us The "Creeps"'
- Dan Sullivan
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER
"A Poignant Look At The Physically Disabled"
- Eric Lerner May 13, 1982
- or - Four Cripples in a Men's Room Bitching.
- David Galligan May 13-19, 1982
L.A. WEEKLY "Pick
Of The Week"
- Michael Auerbach ...May 14-20, 1982
- Bruce Bebb...October, 1982
LOS ANGELES TIMES
"A Handicap Made Visible By Theater"
- Lawrence Christon...December 24, 1982
LOS ANGELES TIMES (Calendar Section)
"Tell Them Where It Hurts" - Dan Sullivan...May 23, 1982
LOS ANGELES HERALD
"A Big Risk Pays Off In A Little Theater
Creeps one of the most talked about theater peices this season"Jack Viertal August 1, 1982
'Theatre/Theater Another Step For Murray/Chaffev."
- Philip Reed....September, 1982
"Creeps' Actors Find Pain In Pretending"
- Michele Kort May 14, 1982
THE DAILY NEWS May
"'Creeps' Brilliantly Portrays Isolated World of Diabled Victims"
- Neal Twyford
THE TALENT SPOTLITE
- Shelley List "They don't want us creeps messing up their world."..June, 1982
- Kathleen Nemetz...May 28, 1982
WITNESS MAGAZINE October, 1982
OPTIONS MAGAZINE June/July, 1982
"Handicapped Fight Back" October 26, 1982
- Bobby Goodman...December 19, 1982
COMPASS MAGAZINE- David De Pino...September 11, 1982
"Seeing the New 'Creeps'"
- Michael Gunsaulus...September 2-8, 1982
ANGELES TIMES"An Insider Gives Us The "Creeps"'
- Dan Sullivan
May 17, 1982
"The Elephant Man" is a compassionate play about a man with neurofibramatesis. Its author, Bernard Pomerance, does not suffer from that condition.
"Children of a Lesser God" is an understanding play about a woman who is deaf. Its author, Mark Medoff, has normal hearing.
But the man who wrote "Creeps", David E. Freeman, does have cerebral palsy. 'He doesn't have to imagine what it would be like to live within an eccentrically wired body that does only approximately what it's commanded. He knows what it is like to be one of the people that other people nervously look away from.
It's maddening. Especially when a man's got at least as capable a mind as his oppressors - as it's easy to come to think of the "normal" world. "Creeps", in its Los Angeles premiere at a tiny Melrose Avenue house called Theatre Theater, is first of all an angry play.
It's not an easy one to watch, at the beginning. One of Freeman's characters wants to rub the world's nose in his condition, and to an extent "Creeps" does just that. The players in this staging (by Jeff Murray) are not actual cerebral palsy victims, but the impersonation is distressingly true. Five palsied youths flailing around in the men's room of a work center for the disabled - it does not promise to be a fun evening of theater.
"Creeps" makes you look, and gradually.you start to,see.
The first thing you see are differences. For instance, Sam (Ebbe Roe Smith) needs a wheelchair to get around, while Tom (Peter Schreiner) doesn't. Michael (Roger Wayne Kruse) knows only a word or two, while Pete (Jed Mills) is a wit. (They all are, to an extent, with special emphasis on bathroom humor.) Clearly cerebral palsy isn't an all-ornothing condition, but a matter of degree.
You start to see something else, too, as you get acclimated to the physical expression of e4ch character (his "accent", as one of the men puts it). You discern the person inside the body.
Sam, hunched in the wheelchair, is an attacker. His way of dealing with the normal world is to shock it. Better its outrage than its pity.
Pete is a slider. He figures that life has dealt him enough of a dirty deal already - why fight it? Why put any effort into it? Take the money and limp.
Tom is a striver. His abstract paintings are the real thing, he thinks. He wants to step out the workshop and see where he stands in the big world. There's a chance for him out there unless people are just being kind.
Jim - played by Ralph Seymour - is a realist. His.role, he thinks, is to represent the cerebral-palsy victim to the normal world, to work for such things as wheelchair lifts on buses. This necessitates getting along with "the man" (represented by the workshop's director, played by Steve Fifield). But when does accommodation become self-betrayal?
There are many such questions in "Creeps". Once past that startling first impression, we see that it's a play of ideas, a symposium - too schematic, sometimes - on what the CP victim's stance should be toward the larger world.
Freeman has his ideas about it. He wants us to applaud when Tom strikes out on his own at the end of the play. He wants us to regard Jim as a bit of a coward for hanging back with "the man". But as a playwright, he leavesus room to admire Jim for making a choice that's true to his character and that may benefit his friends at the shelter more. That the cerebral-palsy victim be allowed to make such choices is the main argument of the play.
In a series of sideshow scenes, we also see why CP victims don't tend to watch telethons in their honor. Public pity can be very hard to take, especially from vulgar people. Better the hard-nose attitude of "the man"', who deals with you as a man.
Fifield as the workshop director makes this point clearly. He's brisk, but he's not cruel - he respects his job and his clients. One can see why Jim would like to work with him. That makes it a stronger debate.
His is a straightforward role next to that of the CP victims, where the actor must create not only the character but the condition. The performances here are strong and specific, with particularly good work from Smith as the outrageous, wheelchair-bound Sam - or is it just that Sam gets some of the best lines?
The set is as glum as an institutional men's room would be, the lighting plain, the theater very small - 24 seats only, with not enough legroom. "Creeps" isn't a particularly confortable evening, but it opens a door. It did for Freeman, too- Written in 1973, it was only the first of a half-dozen plays, not all set the world of the handicapped.
"Creeps" plays at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays, with a 4 p.m. Saturday matinee, through June 21 at Theatre Theater, 7459 Melrose Ave. 653-2488.
ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER
"A Poignant Look At The Physically Disabled"
- Eric Lerner
May 13, 1982
"Creeps" is an autobiographical play by Canadian writer David E. Freeman about a group of physically disabled men in a "sheltered workshop" (i.e., a place to keep them out of sight). Since making its debut in 1972, the play has had several successful productions. Because it portrays men with severe physical disabilities, it brings to mind "The Elephant Man" However, while the stage life of John Merrick was merely an event with which the audience could safely empathize, "Creeps" comes alive with characters whose bodies and voices happen to be terribly bent out of their expected shape. We don't know what to make of them.
Moreover, these people stubbornly refuse sympathy and absolutely abhor pity. They speak a language that is scatological, full of hate for the world and themselves, yet at the same time rich with humor. It is a kind of humor that every minority (and these people are, in a sense, the ultimate minority) develops as a survival- mechanism. As stage language, it has the undeniable ring of truth to it.
The entire drama takes place in the men's room of the workshop facility, where several of the residents gather to escape from the tedium of such tasks as sanding blocks, folding boxes and weaving rugs. Tom, an aspiring painter, has received a letter from an art critic who has encouraged his work. Tom is working with a decision whether to leave and strike out on his own. The other residents respond with various degrees of fatalism, cynicism and, finally, support. Along the way each of them unfolds as a unique individual, their degrees of.physical handicap are carefully delineated by this excellent.ensemble.
Peter Schreiner portrays Tom, with great sensitivity and tenderness for his fellow residents, who live by the power of will. Ebbe Roe Smith is terrific as Sam, the howlingly funny creature in a wheelchair - who is hostile, but finally, like all the rest, terribly vulnerable. Jed Mills,as Pete, the oldest of the group, gives a complex performance as the one with the least disabling affliction, the one who should have been out, but is as much psychologically crippled as physically.
Somewhere in the second half the action dwindles a little, in part due to the confined stage and the small amount of physical activity. But the drama pulled together in a very emotional final scene when the director of the workshop comes in to bust up the party; this sudden intrusion by a non-handicapped human brings everything that has led up to this moment into poignant focus. Jeff Murray should be given a lot of credit for his outstanding direction.
'At Theatre/Theater, 7459 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, 8 p.m., FridaySunday, indefinitely. Reservations, 653-2488.
- David Galligan
"Creeps" - or - Four Cripples in a Men's Room Bitching.
May 13-19, 1982
"Creeps", an autobiographical work by David E. Freeman, regards a quartet of cerebral palsy victims and one passing-through retard as seen in the toilet of a workshop for the physically handicapped. No tears here, no tin cup or plaintive violins, no sad songs for them. This is the stuff life is made of; gritty realities that inhabit the discombobulated bodies of the physically disabled; the bitter pill life forced them to swallow.
Tom folds boxes and paints abstracts, although one of his buddies contends they're nothing more than chicken tracks. Pete weaves rugs and spends most of his time in the can (literally); he feels his talents are worth more than the lousy 45r,% hourly wage, but he's fairly content to live on the dole and let the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs care for him. San is another case altogether. The point -of view that emanates from his wheelchair is that of a mean, acid-tongued, vulgarly sexual scorpion of a man, whose words work like a stinger through the crowd. Jim, the budding writer of the group, Duts the administration to his advantage, 'kissing ass' to Carson and Saunders, using his affliction to ilis advantage.
"Creeps" suffers from certain construction problems; it doesn't get to its basic conflicts until the final quarter of its playing time; it would be so easy to lay in the two characters' aspirations much earlier in the text. Still "Creeps" has power. An autobiographical first play by a physically disabled writer, it shatters all those-pretty -pictures and myths Hollywood has painted for the physically handicapped. A good deal of the acting is commendable, with one of the actors better than that. Jed Mills, as Pete, makes his every jangled move an astonishing truth. What is better yet, is that he hits all the bases emotionally while doing so. He is quite marvelous. Peter Schreiner has tackled Tom, the most physically complex character, with cloudy results, often sacrificing the deformity to achieve the proper emotional response, as though the two worked independently of one another. But I suspect it will eventually come with the continual playing of the piece. Ebbe Roe Smith certainly puts it all in a nasty nutshell as the cruel mouthed Sam, a performance that repels while it fascinates. Intriguing work, indeed. Unfortunately, Ralph Seymour's Jim is pedestrian reading of the role. Roger Wayne Kruse is right on target as a retarded employee of the workshop. Suzanne Perkins did perfectly well with two out of her three characterizations, but completely failed with her portrayal of Saunders, which is amateurishly stilted; ditto Steve Fifield, who was cooking as a telethon announcer, a professor and Puffo the Clown, but plays Perkins, the administrator of the workshop, in declamatory fashion.
The theatre and stage design, by something called Personimpersonator takes advantage of every nook and cranny of this very small space. The lights and sound, which are spare in both cases, are well executed by David C. Weymouth and Gary Krakower. Karen Dick is the movement consultant and it is an extraordinary job she's done.
Jeff Murray has directed "Creeps" like a choreographer setting some strange, uncoordinated ballet danced by non-dancers. It is, in turn, funny, painful, awkward, beguiling, horrifying, yet peculiarly beautiful in its jerky movements. He has invested "Creeps" with a proud carriage, one that carries majesty within its deformity. "dreeps" is well worth your time.
"Pick Of The Week"
- Michael Auerbach
May 14-20, 1982
Creeps deals with the dreams and frustrations of a group of men afflicted with cerebral palsy. They meet in a washroom to talk and bicker - anything to relieve the tedium of sanding blocks and folding boxes, the only jobs society allows them. In the course of one afternoon, they begin to take control of their lives. Unlike "The EleDhant Man", which dealt with disabling disease in a highly poetic, affected manner, CreeDs is a rambling, repetitive discourse on the lives of surly, unhappy men, a discourse woven through with obscenity and uncertainty. Sentimental where it needs to be tough, the play is discouraging to watch and dramatically unsatisfying, yet it is one of the most uncompromising and fascinating theater Dieces I have ever witnessed, largely due to enormously compelling performances. The cast is called upon to assume all the symptoms of cerebral palsy: slurred speech, uncontrollable but strangely rhythmic body movements, warped, bent bodies. To watch able actors assume the mantle of deformity is to witness an illusion as powerful as any that film can supply. Through the magic of the actors, one enters the lives of the "CPs", as the workshop refers to the men; the dramatic flatness and the clumsy surreal interludes become the bare framework on which conflicting emotions hang.
The evening belongs to Peter Schreiner as an abstract artist
seeking acceptance in the outside world, and Jed Mills, magnificent as a
defeated older man content to weave rugs in the workshop. Director Jeff
Murray has done wonders on a stage so tiny that "on" and "off"
may be the only two operative stage directions, and he has coaxed emotional
verisimilitude out of his actors as well as technical prowess. Creeps is
a play about men, not about martyrs or saints, and for all its failings
it has a humor and humanity that offset the abundant unhappiness on view.
- Bruce Bebb
"I once told a reporter that I knew that my little fart of a play wasn't going to change the world," David E. Freeman said in a letter to Jeff Murray last April. "And it's not. When you do "Creeps", please don't clutter it with some idea that I wrote it with some noble cause in mind." Then why? "It's a play and I wrote it because that's what I do for a living...WRITE!" Well, sure; now he can say that; he wrote it because he's a writer, and he's a writer because ...
Only this happens to be one of those works of literature that seem written with an ink that's a blend of tears and blood, compounded with a lot of sweat. Since his drama about a group of victims of cerebral palsy won an award ten years ago as the best Canadian play of the season, it is easy'to forgive Freeman for his swaggering tone, while continuing to speculate about his motives when he adds: "Also because it's something I lived through and feel strongly about. But don't clutter it up with some starry-eyed ideal you are spearheading some cause or the evening is going to be heavier than hell for the audience."
Whether Jeff Murray found this advice from the author helpful when he directed the production of "Creeps" that opened five months ago, only
he could say. Murray's version of "Creeps", with four of the original
seven cast members recently reDlaced (the excuse for reviewing it now), is still running on weekends at Theatre/Theater, the house on Melrose Avenue that Murray operates with his wife, Nicolette Chaffey. Along with Freeman's letter of advice, Murray and Chaffey include in their press kits a three-page summary of the writer's publications and productions with a few facts abou-Z-- his life.
Freeman was born in Toronto in 1945. He entered a school for the handicapped in 1951 and spent ten years there, where he made his initial efforts to be a writer. In 1962 he left he school and went to a place called Adult Interfraternity Workshop. How long he stayed there the brief outline doesn'l tell, but it does say he attempted his first novel at that time. In 1964, when Freeman was nineteen, he published a magazine article, "The World of Can't" in Maclean's, and the following year wrote the first version of "Creeps" for Canadian television. After that Freeman spent five years at McMaster University, graduating with a degree in political science in 1971, the year "Creeps" was presented by the Factory Theatre Lab in Toronto. Later that year it was produced by the Tarragon Theatre. The next year "Creeps" won the Chalmers Award for best Canadian play of the 1971-72 season, and the year after that the New York production won a Drama Desk Award. Recently the play was translated into French, and was produced in Montreal under the title Les Tout-Croches. An adaptation for British audiences toured England for seven weeks last year.
Despite this international recognition, I felt a particular apprehensiveness in the house the night I attended the play. Theatre/Theater is the smallest equity-waiver venue around - twenty-four seats divided in six rows of four. Because I share some of the qualities of that ridiculous play reviewer in The Real Inspector Hound who leaves his seat to answer a ringing.telephone on stage, I ofte n must squelch an impulse to somehow take an active part in what's going on up there, or at least to be as near to the action as possible. Yet I noticed that, like everyone else in the audience last week, my companion and I shunned the first row. I remarked on the empty seats - "Too intense," she said. Neither of us showed any sign of wanting to move closer to the performing area. Later it occurred to me that, far from "some starry-eyed ideal," our feeling of defensiveness and fear of the unknown is what "Creeps" is really about.
The play begins in darkness. A wail - a woman's unintelligible voice - seeps into our ears from offstage. Then a door bangs open and a twisted, awkward figure stands framed in the doorway, groping for the light switch. When the light comes on it reveals a small men's bathroom. There are two stalls for commodes upstage, one supplied with a swinging wooden door, the other with a plastic shower curtain. At left, a urinal Upstage right, a mirror over a washbowl in the corner. Closer to us, a narrow bench along the wall, beneath a shelf that holds a pile of chewed-up magazines. The figure in the doorway - a man named Pete (Danny Goldman) - hobbles over to the shelf, clumsily selects a magazine, then crosses to the far stall and conceals himself inside. After a struggle, he gets his pants down to his ankles.
Yet Pete is positively graceful compared to the next character to enter, Michael (Wayne Kruse), 4 man who spends as much energy listing to the right and left as he does in forward movement. Michael's powers of speech are so impaired that we can never understand him, though his fellow members in this place - a sheltered workshop for the disabled - can make out a word now and then and deduce Michael's meaning. Whether he is mentally retarded (the encyclopedia I consulted said that about 25 percent of the cerebral palsied are), or instead cannot communicate his thoughts because of his uncooperative muscles, we can't be sure. After we have been almost overcome with pity for Michael (Kruse's performance is extraordinary), it may be that he plays a practical joke on someone, a joke that would require a keen wit.
Tom (Peter Schreiner), a man who balances himself with a cane as he lurches from one spot to another, comes in next, looking for Pete to tell him about a letter he has received. Before Tom can relate his news, Sam (Gary Krakower) is at the door, demanding help to get inside. Sam is confined to a wheelchair, and has so little use of his limbs that the others wipe the saliva that gathers on Sam's chin and help him to urinate in a plastic bottle.
Michael, a compulsive toilet and urinal flusher, comes and goes, but the other three - Pete, Tom and Sam - remain on stage for the duration of the play. All of them are filled with resentment, yet soon each is as individualized as any character in a play. Pete, older than the others, has been here for eleven years and is pretty much resigned to his fate. Sam's bitterness is greater - he lashes out verbally at anything he can, including what's precious to his friends; he calls Tom's abstract Paintings 11chicken tracks". Sam's anger revolves around sex, and one of the more melodramatic aspects of "Creeps" is the gradual explanation of Sam's guilty connection to the offstage wailing that we hear from time to time. (My only other objection to the writing is the three interpolations of crude, semifantastic episodes which exaggerate the crassness of the "normal" world's abuse of the handicapped,, making it too easy for the rest of us to get off the hook emotionally by condemning those who are worse than we are.)
Tom turns out to be the play's hero, and his determination to be a real painter is his hope of salvation. Contrasted to Tom is Jim (Vincent Guastaferro), a would-be writer who has decided that it is best to kowtow to the system, which is represented here by two so-called normal people, a nurse named Saunders (Kathryn Butterfield) and the director of this workshop, Carson (Steve Fifield). All the spastics (as they call themselves) loathe them both, especially Carson, a stereotyped do-gooder bureaucrat who is insensitive to the needs of those he ostensibly helps. With no more mercy than a sweatshop boss, Carson turns his charges against each other and tries to quash their initiative, so that they are easier to manage. Until you see Pete's jerky, maladroit gesture you don't know what an inspiration giving someone the finger can be.
Last February David Freeman had a commissioned -piece broadcast on Canadian radio. In the past ten years he's had a half-dozen more plays produces, some in workshop versions or staged readings: "Battering Ramil (1972), "You're Gonna Be Alright, Jamie Boy" (1974), "Flytrap" (1976), "Jungle of Lilacs" (1978), "DaTm You, Joey!" (1979), and this year "Still Life" (not to be confused with Emily Mann's play of the same title). I have not seen or read any of them yet, but based on what there is in "Creeps", if I were looking for a play to produce I'd examine them right away. Freeman knows what people are up to, and his vision of power and freedom should be shared.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
"A Handicap Made Visible By Theater"
- Lawrence Christon
December 24, 1982
"Creeps", the David E. Freeman play, which has been running since May at Theatre/Theater on Melrose Avenue, puts us uncomfortably face to face with the heroic struggle it takes for a cerebral palsy victim to perform the simplest task, whether it's turning on a tap, blowing one's nose or making onels way across a room. So vividly are its characters depicted that this observer felt a bit of shame at the end Qver the relief at seeing perfectly normal (and very skilled) actors,take their curtain calls.
It's no accident that this play should be found in this space. Theatre/ Theater, the creation of Jeff Murray and his wife, Nicolette Chaffey, is, as the name implies, concerned with the-properties of expression that make theater unique. Though their compassion for CP victims is great (considerable pains have been taken to present authenticity), their interest in "Creeps"-is also in it-s power as a theater piece.
"One of the questions 'Creeps' asks is, "What's it like to be a normal person in a body you can't control?,'" Murray said. "When we were in the rehearsal process, one of the actors, looking for clues about how to do it right, said, 'I've got it! It's about the effort to controlly
"The play was first done in 1972 in the Tarragon Theater in Toronto. Freeman, who is Canadian, also has CP. I was challenged by the perspective of being within that world and by the physical adjustments actors would have to make in portraying it," Murray said.
"I would like to have cast real CP actors, but a kind of Catch-22 situation takes over there. Handicapped actors are permitted so few jobs in acting that too few would have had the maturity of means to handle the roles, and real CP actors would not have been able to control their bodies for the right dramatic moments. They'd be too unpredictable.
"We were careful in how we went about it just the same. We talked with Jack Moe, director of residence at the 105th Street Facility for the Developmentally Disabled. We also met with Mike Lande, director of the workshop on 6th Street for the Crippled Children's Society. That's the work situation of the play. Ironically, a lot of the workers, who are referred to as 'clients' rather than 'victims', were too busy working to lend themselves as role models for the actors.
"But they helped us in specific ways, and generally in bringing home the fact that they're in our community, not someplace Out There. Our stage manager, Peggy Oliveri, who's disabled, once said, 'The disabled community is the only minority you can join.' Sometimes all it takes is diving into a lake and hitting your head on a rock."
For Murray and Chaffey, who have drawn their tastes and ideas from work in the theater on three continents, it's been a long wait for a production that was right for what they've wanted to do.
Both are 34 (they have a 5-year-old daughter, Jessica). Both are Londonbased actors who first came to America with the National Theater of Great Britain's all-male production of "As You Like It". ("I first went along as Jeff's wife," Chaffey said.) After the tour, when acting jobs dried up at the National, they traveled to Australia. It was a turning point.
"I decided I wanted to try directing," Murray recalled. "Hayes Gordon, the father of Australian acting, offered me his theater on Sunday nights, and I directed the Ted Hughes' adaptation of Seneca's 'Oedipus'. The attitude was, 'What do you want to do? Can you do it? Feel free to try.111
Murray and Chaffey did some conmuting between Australia and Canada, where he directed a number of other modern plays, such as "The Collected Works of Billy the Kid" and "Travesties". By 1978, they decided it was time to leave Australia for good. "We couldn't go on taking advantage of their hospitality without becoming one of them, that is, taking on citizenship," Murray said. "It's a close-in place. Too, we're Northern Hemisphere people, international people, if you will. It was time to go back on the road."
The move of Murray's in-laws was another incentive to return to the city that periodically beckoned. "There's no getting around the fact that L.A.'s a major world center," Murray said. "The media L.A. is not the real L.A. I don't believe-that the city is so amorphous, and that everyone just wants to sit home and watch TV. It's an active place.
"We don't have grandiose plans for Theatre/Theater. I think of it as a king of lab, where you try things out. The audience is an integral part of our theater and of 'Creeps'. The viewer has bot to be there, working as hard as the actors. That's why you come out feeling touched."
Added Chaffey: "The struggle the audience shares with the actors creates a tension. By the end everyone is saying, 'Yeah! In spite of everything, it's great to be alive!"'
LOS ANGELES TIMES (Calendar Section) "Tell Them Where It Hurts" - Dan Sullivan
May 23, 1982
What should I write about? a beginning playwright once asked a wise director, who replied: Write about something that bothers you.
This isn't always good advice. It can result in an overwrought, tooprivate play, the dramatic equivalent of,a'man talking to himself on the bus. The dramatist can't forget that there are other Deople present.
But for the playwright inclined to remember this all too well, it's suDerl advice. Writing about something painful in one's life, or in the lives of those close to you, is difficult work. One finds truths that one woulc just as soon look away from.
But it's also an adventure, to go into those dark and scary woods. The adrenalin starts pumping and'the ideas start to flow. The writing takes~ on an enery that it wouldn't have if the assignment were to copy the last Lanford Wilson play. For better or worse, this is your vision that's going on paper. And you may come out of the woods with something that an audience can share.
After all, if it bothers you - whatever it is - it probably bothers otherc too. (They simply didn't want to be the first to bring it up.) Your play will strike a chord with them and may spark the interest of other listeners who had never stoDDed to look at whatever it is, from your angle. At least you will have enlarged the conversation.
If you extend the conversation into previously forbidden areas, you may find yourself criticized as a crank, or as someone whose point of view is too "special" (weird) to be of use to the general audience. Ibsen and Tennessee Williams have faced those charges, along with some playwrights who were cranks and weirdos. No matter. They dared to come forth with their vision.
Even when it's too subjective, the work written from a personal gripe, or wound, has an intensity that registers in the theater. For instance, even though the audience can't quite parse "March of the Falsettos" at the Hartford or "Woza Albert!" at the Aquarius, it can tell that the creators of each piece have a stake in the material. Each piece is hot in a way that, for example, Christopher Hampton's "Tales From Hollywood" at the Taper, wasn't - a commissioned piece that didn't seem to hook into anything vital within the playwright. If he couldn't find himself in the material, how could the audience? .
The writers we admire most are those who delve into themselves and show us what they find - hoping to God that we recognize it. There's a bravery to this that's forgotten when the play has, in fact, enlarged the conversation. It's easy to look back on "The Boys in the Band", for instance, and to see that of.course the mainstream audience was ready, by 1968, for a caustic comedy about gay life. But it took Mart Crowley to risk writing it. It must have been a nervous opening night.
We still have theater taboos; subjects that nice playwrights don't approach, except with great circumspection. A "nice" play about cerebral palsy, for instance, would not be titled "Creeps". It would not feature five spastic youths talking smut in a workshop lavatory
But this is what the author of "Creeps", David E. Freeman, has seen for himself as a victim of CP, and what does he care about our sensibilities? Whose life is it, anyway?
One can recoil from "Creeps" at the tiny Theatre Theater on Melrose. One can call it the ultimate victim play. One can't deny that it strikes very close to the bone - that the "normal" viewer comes out unsettled, with a gut appreciation of the difficulties of life as a spastic (Freeman says the word straight out) and a gut realization of his own hangups about severely handicapped people, even when they're just characters in a play. Freeman forces the viewer to go into himself. Writing from personal experience, he gives you one.
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER
"A Big Risk Pays Off In A Little Theater
August 1, 1982
'Creeps' is one of the season's most talked-about Equity-waiver offering - Jack Viertel
Theatre/Theater snuck into existence without anyone noticing. Opening in a tiny, 24-seat house squeezed into a storefront on Melrose Avenue - surely the least preposessing auditorium on theater row - Jeff Murray and Nicolette Chaffey's production company promised nothing, and nothing about the operation boded especially well. Its opening offering was an unknown quantity at best: David E. Freeman's "Creeps" had a 15-performance run in New York and concerned an unpleasant subject (spastics) in an unpleasant setting (the men's room of a "sheltered workshop," a place where the brain-damaged can go to be among their own, out of the rude eye of society). Yet within a month of its May 7 opening, "Creeps" had become one of the most talked-about Equity-waiver offerings of the season, and Murray and Chaffey had proved that Theatre/Theater is a going concern.
It only goes to show that good work may sometimes be its own best advertisement: "Creeps" is Freeman's first play, and it has both the strengths (eagerness, energy, a fresh outlook) and the drawbacks (immaturity, oversimplification, structural shallowness) of young work. But if the play is flawed, the production is more than flawless - it's breathtaking.
"Creeps" is a portrait of a beleaguered minority. It shows us spastics in the hiding place Society has provided for them, a "sheltered workshop" that's really a convenient dumping spot. It's comfortable for the disabled here - the public doesn't peer at them. But all of therq are aware that society gets as much as it gives: Their desire to hide fills them with self-loathing, for it plays into the public's desire to have them hidden.
Their debased state has turned these spastics into self-pitying, hostile, petty animals, but Freeman (who is himself a cerebral palsy victim) knows them well enough to see them as individuals. The plot of "Creeps" - the one artist in the group tries to leave the workshop behind and make a life on the outside - is finally too simple and underdeveloped, but the people ring true, and the acting, under Murray's direction, makes the impact of "Creeps" indelible.
From the opening moments, when Roger Wayne Kruse enters the men's room making his painful way across the floor to the urinal, it is clear that we are in the hands of especially accomplished people. As each actor joins him on stage, we enter a world of anguish and frustration that finally engulfs the tiny auditorium as well as the stage. Whatever the shortcomings of Freeman's play, Murray and the actors use it as a springboard. The atmosphere these people live in and the pain it costs them to move and speak make Freeman's points more eloquently than his plot.
Jed Mills, playing a defeatist would-be carpenter named Pete, gives as fine a performance.as one is likely to see this year in Los Angeles, and his climactic monologue, in which he confesses unwittingly to the loss of pride and individuality that the workshop has cost him ("I ask myselfWhat am I supposed to be fighting? They want to make life easier for me. Is that so bad? They just want me to enjoy life.") is heartbreaking. Ebbe Roe Smith, as the caustic, vicious, diplegic Sam, etches an almost equally intense portrait, his poisonous wit fired by the dreadful circumstances of his life. Despite his confinement to a wheelchair, Smith looks dangerous, his body coiled and muscular, his face set in a venomous scowl. As Tom (the fledgling artist who tries to make it on his own) and Jim (a would-be writer), Peter Schreiner and Ralph Seymour are somewhat more hamstrung by the material. Yet in a play that demands specialized performances, (all the actors must'shudder and shake constantly, and each must invent verbal irregularities as well) there is never a false note. To some extent the ensemble effect must be credited to director Murray, whose extensive work with various highly respected companies (including the National Theatre of Great Britain) has stood him in good stead. For the last couple of years, Los Angeles theater has been riddled with announcements that it has come of age, usually with sketchy evidence or none at all. But if the local theater scene is not yet ripe, the beginning of the realization of a tiny dream like Theatre/Theater is the kind of reverberation we need. Murray and Chaffey (they are married) rented the space last December on impulse after several less-than-satisfying experiences working in other people's Equity-waiver theaters. They installed the stage and auditorium, and did everything from painting to creating a small loft above the stage where they can catch a nap during all-night work sessions. The production costs are negligible (an audience of nine people will pay the bills for the performance of "Creeps") and their plans are modest. They have no designs on Hollywood, and, in fact, one of the points of their company and its name is that this is theater for its own sake.
The company's second production, a modest theatrical abstraction called "Ruins of S-Permar," attracted far less attention during its recent sixweek run than "Creeps" and quietly disappeared. But "Creeps" has shown staying power, and has now been extended through August, although the cast will change after Aug. 7. Murray and Chaffey, who came here in December, 1980, from Great Britain via Australia, plan to stay. Murray says he can feel the rumblings of L.A. theater all around him, and he feels it's a good atmosphere to work in. In a year, perhaps, he will try to move to a bigger theater and establish some permanent roots, although he has no desire for his own acting company, as long as the level of talent around him is so high.
Theatre/Theater isn't as likely to be overtly political as it is to express a view of life that embraces social themes. Too many of our theaters have had similar ambitions but shied away from the really tough subjects. With "Creeps", Murray and Chaffey demonstrate that they will remain undaunted where subject matter is concerned and,.further, that they have the ability to realize some extremely challenging artistic goals with a minimum of financial resources. Further developments will be eagerly awaited.
'Theatre/Theater Another Step For Murray/Chaffev."
- Philip Reed
When "Creeps" was about to Open last May, Jeff Murray and his wife Nicolette Chaffev, owners of Theatre/Theater, had no idea how it would be received. And they had good cause to worry because the play about five cerebral palsy victims talking about ' life in a men's room isn't the sort of play people would rush right out to see.
"We opened it, looked at each other and said, "This is our first baby and it'll run about six weeks if we're lu cky," Chaffey recalls.
But she was quickly proved wrong. The play, by Ca-nadian David Freeman - himself afflicted with cerebral palsy - and directed by Murray, received excellent reviews. Soon the tinv theatre (with 1-4 seats it is one of the. smallest i-n Los Angeles) was full every night. In August the play was partially re-cast and it continues indefinitely.
The incredible success of "Creeps" is even more amazing because it is the first play staged at Theatre/Theater, founded on a shoestring by the couple "Last December. Chaffey, from. England, and Murray, born in Canada, both 3z,, years old, met in the green room at the --Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England. Together, they traveled and performed in England, Australia, America and Canada. But it was tragedy, however - a death in each of their families - which finally made them turn their dream into a reality.
"One person who died was old, the other was young and we saw that death doesn't have a preference about who it takes," Chaffey says. "So I thought, 'What are we waiting for? Circumstances, or money or the right place? Let's do it now.'"
They found the space at 7459 Melrose Avenue - barely wider than a Parenthesis between two stouter buildings on either side - and named it Theatre/Theater. The two different spellings of the word stand for the union of American and English theatre."When we signed the lease the landlord asked what kind of business we were going to have," Murray says. "I said, 'A theatre, so you can expect us to go broke in about three months.' He said, 'No. You go for it and see what happens.' Melrose is very much like that. There seem to be landlords here who can sense the artist mood and want to encourage it."
The first play was to be an adaptation of Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" written by Murray. The day before rehearsals were scheduled to begin, however, he heard Steven Berkoff was coming to Los Angeles. Knowing that "Metamorphosis" was part of Berkoff's repertoire, Murray made "a few discreet telephone calls" and learned the play was scheduled for the Mark Taper Forum.
"It was really strange because I was then challenged with the idea, 'Do I go my own way and risk alienating the whole theatre community? or do I back off?' It took me a few stiff drinks before I made the decision. After all, I put a lot of effort into it - three months of writing. I felt the space was right and I had some brilliant people for the parts."
He finally decided to do "Creeps", a play Murray literally found on a friend's book shelf. Some of the actors cast for "Metamorphosis" were right for "Creeps" and rehearsals began.
As "homework" for the play, Murray tood the cast to visit cerebral palsy victims at the West 105th Street Facility for the Developmentally Disabled. Soon, the actors,became so intent on accurately moving and talking as if they had cerebral palsy, they almost lost sight of the total picture.
"I went into rehearsal one night and said, 'Listen. Quite frankly I think we're forgetting that this is about five guys who get together in the toilet and talk. The cerebral palsy is just something they live with. We're concentrating too much on that and not on who these men are. Coincidentally, the next day David Freeman, the play's author, wrote Murray a letter on the same subject. He wrote, "You're free to work on "Creeps" any way you want as long as you remember one thing: this is a play, it's not a crusade.".
Toward the end of rehearsals, Murray invited the people from the West 105th Street Facility who helped them with the play - many of them in wheelchairs - to a special performance of "Creeps".
"It was one of my most moving experiences in theatre," Murray says. "The actors were aware they were doing the play for people who lived inside those adjustments (cerebral palsy) constantly. There were tears in everyone's eyes."
Chaffey quickly adds, "Later it turned into an uproarious pizza and beer party. It was almost one o'clock before the last wheelchair rolled out.
Once "Creeps" opened to the public, most audience members reacted positively to the unusual play. "A lot of people are tremendously moved by it," Chaffey says. "They stay around afterwards, shake my hand and thank me. "
Murray adds, "When the play can move a complete stranger to tears, you know you're saying something important."
A few people find the play too "confronting", Chaffey says.. They either listen to it from the lobby or walk out altogether."
"The actors want "Creeps" to run until Christmas," Murray says. A second show, Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days", will run on Tuesday and Wednesday nights beginning September 28 and a performance art show, Miguel Sandoval's "El Descanso", is on Sundays. With the theatre being run at capacity, Murray hopes they will be able to cover their expenses.
Although Murray acts surprised at "Creeps'" success, Chaffey explains it is typical of the reception which greets a show directed by her husband. Perhaps this is due to Murray's down to earth philosophy of theatre, one which maintains theatre should be accessible to everyone, not just the intelligentsia.
"I have a great faith in what theatre can achieve in life," he says. "As Shakespeare says, it holds a mirror up to life - we find out how other people react and we see ourselves as others see us." At the same time it "fulfills the deep ritual need in a community-oriented human being."
Although Theatre/Theater is just a step along the way for Murray and Chaffey, they seem quite pleased for the present.
"There is no greater feeling than to stand outside your own theatre and watch people arrive," Murray says, with obvious pride, "And at the same time watch people go to another theatre across the street, and another down the block. It's very satisfying to be part of that community."
"Creeps'*Actors Find Pain In Pretending"
- Michele Kort
May 14, 19 8 2
"I've been thinking about screwing since I was six years old - and trying to figure out how to do it!"
The speaker is a Man presumed by many to have no sex life, nor the desire for one, because he is confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy (CP). He recently served as a consultant on a play about men like himself, written by a man very much like himself, called "CreepS".
"A man with CP has an emotional, a sexual, and an intellectual identification. He's not a vegetable," says Jeff Murray, director of "Creeps", which inaugurates the new perforriance space he and his wife Nicolette Chaffey have opened on Melrose Avenue, Theatre/Theater.
Written by David E. Freeman on a typewriter he operated with a stick held in his teeth, the play was first produced in Canada in 1972 and has never been seen in Los Angeles. "It takes place in the Men's washroom of a sheltered workshop," explains Murray. "That's a facility run by private industry with the idea of using CP and mentally deficient peoT)le for jobs like folding boxes. I saw one the other day where the workers were putting avocado recipes in plastic bags. You have a whole table of neople who sit around and do this for hours on end, and they make about thirty-four cents an.hour."
Neither Murray, Chaffey (who's producing the play), nor the six men and onre one woman in the cast have cerebral palsy, so they turned to social workers and CP people in the community to learn more about the sentient beings behind the spasmodic physical presence of CP sufferers. "It's been a long, torturous process for the actors, it says Murray. "But as one of the guys with CP said, 'At least when you're finished doing the part, you can go normal again.'
"The CP's in California have a saying they put on their posters," says Murray. "'We are not disabled people, we are people with disabilities. Within that small distinction lies all their human dignity."
"Creeps" plays at Theatre/Theater (7459 Melrose Avenue,--653-2488), Thursdays through Satur~ays at 8 p.m., and Saturday matinees at 4 p.m.
THE DAILY NEWS May 12, 1982
"'Creeps' Brilliantly Portrays Isolated World of Diabled Victims"
- Neal Twyford
"Creeps", one of the most remarkable plays to have been written in the past ten years, has just opened in Los Angeles at Theatre/Theater, 7459 Melrose Avenue.
Written by Canadian David E. Freeman and performed in Canada in 1972, it won the Chalmers Award as the best Canadian play of 1971-72, was' Droduced in Washington, D.C. a-nd then New York where it won the New York Drama Desk Award and in 1979 won a first place award -in the international Edinborough "Fringe" Festival.
At last, we have it in Los.Angeles and the production here is one of those once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experiences. Jeff Murray directs a superbly disciplined and miraculously astute cast in this rare production.
What is "Creeps"? "Creeps" is -perhaps the finest play ever to deal with the physical and even more important psychological consequences of being severely physically disabled in our moder society.
In a little over one-and-one-half hours, Freeman's plav not only lays out the treacherous course of his characters' lives but exhibits a constantly vital, incisive, witty and haunting talent for nlaywrighting. Its as if a disabled Eugene O'Neill is writing from the inside out about his psyche. Freeman is that brilliant and true to himself and us. At first the play shocks, than provokes. In the end it stuns with the shock of recognition. This play is not just about the lives of the disabled, it is about life.
This is a play that will make you laugh, cringe and ultimately come to a better understanding of what life sometimes is for the severely disabled. As the woman next to this reviewer said after the play, "This is life".
THE TALENT SPOTLITE
- Shelley List
"They don't want us creeps messing up their world."
The world the character is talking about is ours. The creeps in question are those who lunge and shuffle to walk, who struggle to squeeze precious words out of their throats, who flop and shudder to move across a room. The creeps in "Creeps" have cerebral palsy.
They are like naughty boys in the washroom. But playwright David E. Freeman afflicted by cerebral nalsy himself, is talking about much, much More. It is the agony of intelligence imprisoned in a twisted body that concerns him. It is the soul trapped, lurking in the ceaseless tremor of a limb.
This is a gem of a production. Director Jeff Murray, with sensitivity and dazzling skill, has moved his actors about as though he had 50 times the space. He even manages'a wheelchair on the miniscule stage.
These are performances that are especially stunning. Performances that should not be missed.
Peter Schreiner as Tom, the one who has not yet given up, who does not want to fold boxes for the rest of his life, is most convincing. His rom is a yearning spirit, aching to experience life outside. Schreiner is-excellent, childlike, loving, knowing life is more than what he has. Je is especially moving Vhen he listens to a letter written by an art aritic about his work, his face registering hundreds of invisible tears.
)utstanding is Roger Wayne Kruse as the man most seriously afflicted. He 2annot talk at all, but plunges into the room like a rag doll whose innards iri.straw, whose muscles have melted into butter.
After the curtain call, the actors are unrecognizable; the features relaxed, their bodies quiet.
This is not an easy play to watch. One's aesthetics could be bruised. It is painful, but perpetually moving. One is humbled in the face of it.
- Kathleen Nemetz
May 28, 1982
The setting is innocuous enough - the men's room of a sheltered workshop for the cerebral palsied. But what begin's as a bull session becomes a despairing commentary on the treatment given disease victims - "spastics", they call themselves. Canadian writer David E. Freeman - himself cerebral palsied - opens the door to a host of questions about man's basic humanity. My own emotions metamorphosed from repulsion to pity and then respect as I watched the play's five lead characters grimace, contort, and gum through their roles. Unable to find acceptance in the "outside" world, Tom, a cerebral palsied artist, and Jim, a writer with the disease, find themselves in a sheltered workshop with people unable to walk or speak. The acting is superb: director Jeff Murray had his actors study real victims of cerebral palsy to authentically reproduce their ties. I only regret the play's "talky" quality; it needs more action; Freeman's characters need to leave the.men's room.
Joan Pavne tells us that there is a play in town'we don't want to miss. David Freeman's "Creeps" is a unique theatrical experience, autobiographical ind extraordinary in its conception, inventively set in Theatre/Theater's 3torefront space on Melrose Avenue and superbly acted by a toally professionil cast of seven. All the characters serve up a deep dish of reality and reminded her of how exciting Moderrn Theatre can be when stripped of elaborate costumes, devices and special effects, leaving one with the basic relationship between the characters. Treat yourself before it leaves town.
"Creeps", now appearing at Hollywood's Theatre/Theater, is a powerfully. written biographical play by David Freeman. Unlike the authors of "Ele-nhant Man" and "Children of a Lesser God", Freeman is a man with a disability; he has cerebral palsy. This superbly acted play, capturing the essence of routine life in a sheltered workshoD, grew out of Freeman's own experience.
The play is profound and thought-provoking. It presents a very stronZgmessage about the struggles and value of independent living.
The actors are -not people with disabilities,' however they do an excellent job of portraying five unique individuals with cerebral palsy. The performance gets a "9" on the Kailes scale, with "10" bei-ng best.
"Handicapped Fight Back"
October 26, 1982
"Creeps it at Theatre/Theater is a powerful piece of theatre and has truly deserved its long run. It is a play to experience; a dynamic piece of art. It is a plea for understanding. These men may be physically handicaDDed but they are extremely alive mentally. That they have to spend their days weaving rugs, sanding blocks, etc. for a few dollars, is demeaning to them. The play recounts their rebellion. Jeff Murray has done a superb job of directing. The performances of his cast are exceptional, in particular Danny Goldman as the rebellious, mischievious Pete and Peter Schreiner as the fledgling artist Tom.
- Bobby Goodman
December 19, 1982
"Creeps" is one of the finest pieces of theatre I've ever seen on the West Coast. It is really extraordinary. The Derformances in this Piece are so excellent, are so accomplished, that not for a minute do you wonder if it is an actor. You accept right away that this is the real thing and it is happening to you. "Creeps" is a verveloquent Play by an author who himself has CP. It is a very.serious piece of theatre; that it allows you to transcend your own reality, and reallv allows you to enter into someone else's world. Theatre like this is a tremendous contribution to life as a whole. It is totally moving. -If you really are adventurous and you want to see a great Piece of theatre, and maybe learn a bit about people, see "Creeps", because it's a wonderful piece about life as a whole. About society. And how on various stratas of society organizations of People begin to do the samie sort of thing. It's tough, but it's uplifting. It has laughs and it definitely affects the people that see it. It is a great piece of theatre. We are so happy to have this new organization called Theatre/Theater with us in L.A. on Melrose Avenue.
It isn't for everyone, but if you are interested in a major landmark in L.A. theatre, call tflem about reservations. It's called Theatre/Theater and the show is called "Creeps". And it features, among other people, Barry Livingston, who gives a marvelous performance. But he is in good company. Anyway, that's it for this week. "Creeps" at Theatre/Theater, 7459 Melrose Avenue, 653-2488.
COMPASS MAGAZINE - David De Pino
September 11, 1982
The play "Creeps" deals with an unpleasant subject matter, 'cerebral palsy' The award-winning playwright, Canadian David E. Freeman did not have to research the subject matter as he is palsied and can give us first hand information and emotions ... an inside look at.the victims. This play forces us to search our conscience.
As the characters begin to enter you feel the old feeling
Of pity and
repulsion, but this tirie you have made a Comm , itment to 'stop-look-and-
listen'; and when you do, you are amazed to find these people are just
like you. They have feelings, desires, aspirations and varied levels
of acceptance of what life has dealt them. '
Playwright David E., Freeman, a 'cp' victim, is not looking for sympathy with "Creeps". He has a brilliant flair for dialogue.and gives us a slice of life we would not ordinarily see or want to see, but after seeing it, we could only thank him. His work will certainly make us think twice before we turn away.
The performances by Danny Goldman, Roger Wayne Kruse, Peter Schreiner Erich Anderson and Barry Livingston are exquisite. Jeff Murray's direction is superlative.
It was good news to hear that "Creeps" is being extended at Theatre/Theater, but it would have been better news to hear that it was going to television. It would make a better impact than a telethon for Cerebral Palsy.
"Seeing the New 'Creeps'"
- Michael Gunsaulus
September 2-8, 1982
Several summers ago I had the extraordinary opportunity to serve as a counselor at a camp for children afflicted with cerebral palsy, Watching Theatre/Theater's stunning production of David E. Freeman's "Creeps" brought back vivid memories of that summer, sending -chills up my spine.
'The bravura acting performances by the leads in this production are hauntingly accurate portrayals. Here are People with arms and legs that look like gnarled tree limbs. Voices straining to form words.Saliva drooling from their mouths.
Intense control is displayed by these actors demonstrating what a person appears like when he has little or no control of his body.
Four roles have been recently recently recast in this long-running production (originally reviewed.by David Galligan in Issue. No 19, May 13-19). Vincent Guastaferro portrays Jim, outwardly carefree but inwardly troubled by his affliction. Guastaferro captures the conflict in a performance of triumphant achievement. As Sam, Gary Krakower makes good use of his marvelous character face, contorting it in all directions. He turns the wheelchair he is confined to into a fascinating vehicle. Danny Goldman is wellcast as Pete. He gives his role a fine mixture of humor and synicism which is necessary to the play's development. At times, he struggles to sustain his characterization. But the most moving performance of all is Peter Schreiner who continues in the role of Tom which he has played since opening.
By play's end they are drenched in sweat as they step out for a deserved standing ovation. The very nature of the play makes the curtain call highly dramatic. You wonder and wait anxiously-to see the magical transformation. Will they really be able'to function normally, without the aid of wheelchairsi, and crutches? They are that convincing..The fourth cast newcomer is Kathryn Butterfield who does what she can with the flatly written role of Saunders, a thoughtless supervisor at the workshop. She is boisterously bizarre, though, as one of the entertainers in a series of suggestive interludes interspersed throughout the play. Continuing in their roles are Roger Wayne Kruse as Michael and Steve Fifield as Carson.
Freemants play is an excellent way to acquaint the public with people who are not physically normal but still can function in a day-to-day existence. It is a jolting experience and the playwright iiot only paints,a powerful portrait but tells a story as well. Director Jeff Murray pulls a tour-deforce out of this talented ensemble.
LA TIMES THEATER REVIEW: March 18/04 **RECOMMENDED** LA Weekly: Isabella's Fortune- PICK OF THE WEEK- March 18/2004 BackStage West March 17, 2004 BACKSTAGE WEST: Isabella's Fortune Reviewed By Madeleine Shaner
17th Century Play, Modern Sensibility
Nimble acting and crisp humor enhance Meadows Basement's updated 'Fortune'
intrepid gang at Meadows Basement shows formidable range in "Isabella's
Fortune," an updated romp freely adapted from an obscure 17th century
scenario by Flaminia Scala.
The group's recent production, "Eighteen," was an elliptical and terse three-character drama about a husband, a wife and the trouble teenage niece who triggers their familial meltdown.
It's a daring leap from that downplayed tale of subterranean despair to this unabashedly broad and busy slapstick vehicle, but this nimble company vaults the gap with no apparent effort.
Scala's text has been boldly "plagiarized" by adaptor Wade McIntyre, who retains the stock characters and the classic outlines of commedia dell'arte but infuses them with a cheeky and subversive quality that is distinctly modern.
Many directors turn stuffy and reverential when approaching the venerable commedia form. Fortunately, director Aaron Ginsburg takes little seriously except for comedic timing.
In that, he is a taskmaster, as evidenced by this crisp and funny staging. Some of the running gags may grind on too long, but they are always crisply calibrated.
In the title role, Samantha Montgomery is straightforward and appealing as a noblewoman who comes to Rome seeking to avenger herself upon the two-timing Captain (droll Steven Bakken), who once jilted her.
Among the consistently funny cast, Matt Saunders and Jon Molerio stand out as the conniving servants whose self-serving shenanigans fuel the humor.
by F. Kathleen Foley
Isabella's Fortune- LA Weekly PICK OF THE WEEK- March 18/2004
Don't look too hard for the reason Wade McIntyre developed his comedy from scraps of Flaminio Scala's 17th-century commedia dell'arte scenario. Unless you want to argue that in all the play's campy romantic intrigues, rude innuendoes, stupid pranks and a little pop of flatulence, hardly any of the characters - rabidly chasing lust and fortune - have a clue as to what's actually going on around them. That, you might suggest, has a kind of political resonance. Kind of. This production is really about the qualities of duplicity and stupidity that keep backfiring on the owners. Proud Isabella (Samantha Montgomery) comes to a piazza on the outskirts of Rome searching for her lover, Captain Spavento (Steven Bakken), who hit-and-ran, so to speak. She doesn't know he's just a cad, but we do. Meanwhile, two brothers (Ira Steck and Elijha Mahar) court the same virtuous maiden (Jenni Kirk, with little heart-shaped lips that pucker in mockery from her little window), whom her idiotic dad (Scott Blackburn) is holding hostage for the highest bidder. She's really a slut, but that's another matter. This is romance, Machiavelli-style, a burlesque of a burlesque with bells and whistles. How could such nonsense rise above the infantile? I don't know, but director Aaron Ginsburg does. Once he establishes the broad-as-a-barn theatrical language, the cast's impeccable timing, physical dexterity and stylistic unity all sustain the fragile satirical humor. Meadows Basement Theater at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (added 2 p.m. perfs April 4 & 18); thru April 18.
BackStage West March 17, 2004
Reviewed By Madeleine Shaner
"Isabella's Fortune" presented by Meadows Basement Theater at Theatre/Theater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sun. 7 p.m. Mar. 12-Apr. 18. $15. (323) 782-6218. There's a certain artistic freedom for a company presenting a play with a familiar plot. The actors can set aside any notion of inciting an audience to think, analyze, or concentrate. The audience, too, is let off the hook and can safely relax in the ambience of something they don't have to bother to interpret. Wade McIntyre and his Meadows Basement troupe provide a very fair exchange with their hilariously silly adaptation of Flaminio Scala's 16th century commedia, loosing a horde of stock dell'arte characters to do their worst in the comic tradition of Italian street performers, using mistaken identities, romantic quadrangles, ham-handed swordplay, risible names, perverted clowns, and true love-all engendering roars of laughter.
Without giving away the plot: Against a nondescript backdrop that sports a door to The Inn and two lovelorn windows for romantic trysts (set by Paul Eric Pape), two sparring siblings, Oration (Ira Steck) and Flavio (Elijha Mahar), vie for the favors of Flaminia (Kirk), a spoiled Tuscan princess who has mastered the art of manipulating her perfect little world. Pantalone (Scott Blackburn), the coy mistress' father, has his eyes on the gold of Captain Spavento (Steven Bakken) in return for his daughter's virginity. Spavento, however, who has a sexually ambivalent relationship with his porter, Arlecchino (a very funny Jon Molerio), is the scoundrely object of the beautiful Isabella's (Samantha Montgomery) search for the cad who took her dowry and shamelessly jilted her. Dressed as a French serving girl, she and her servant, Burattino (crazy-funny Matt Saunders), are intent on infiltrating the local circle of lovers and sluts, cuckolds and clowns, until Amor, who has been busy with the innkeeper, Pedrolino's (Brandon Moynihan) wife, Franceschina (Janie Haddad), and her two sly lovers, Pantalone and Dr. Gratiano (Andy Mangin), the father of the two battling siblings, starts playing his little tricks.
According to the program's credits, the play is "plagiarized by Wade McIntyre, from a scenario by Flaminio Scala, misdirected by Aaron Ginsberg, and overacted by the cast." Which is exactly the treatment that should have been afforded this hugely amusing piece of nonsense. Suspending disbelief is absolutely no problem; indeed, it's a joy in this dizzy, ridiculously cockeyed, nonstop entertainment.
Makeup, which is uncredited, consists of traditionally painted-on commedia masks, plus outrageous costumes by Kirk and lighting by Michael Resnick, add curative humor to a side-splitting production.
LA TIMES REVIEW- F KATHLEEN FOLEY
'Dark Room' needs some creative light
You'd have to search long and hard to find a play more raw arid fervid than William A. Davis"In a Dark Room" at Theatre/Theater. A harrowing examination of the lingering effects of child abuse on two troubled siblings, the play bristles with acute eniotionalism and anguish, -not to mention nudity and sexually explicit situations.
Davis, who diirects and also appears in a lesser role, is a youthful practitioner, ftill of passion and hormonal intenstty. Unfortunately, while long on ardor, Davis is short on craft, ultimately unable to channel his unleashed torrent into dramatic coherence.
The action revolves around the twitchy, disturbed Alex (Heath Silvercloud), an aspiring writer whose childhood was a hell of neglqct and abuse. Alex wants to understand the past by revisiting it, but his sister Jessica (Laura A. Rice) resists reflection, preferring to lose herself in a haze of promiscuity and alcoholism.
The action switches back and forth hi tune fmm the present
to the past, where we witness the agonizing treatment of Alex and Jessica
as children, played by Kris, Hatfield and Brooke Swift, respectively. Their
criminally feckless mother (Claire Kelly) is the chief architect of their
misery, 'allowing her trashy boyfriend (John Bowman) to savage Alex and
molest Jessica regularily
Its a depressing scenario that ends badly, with plenty of histrionics and gore. Despite its glaring flaws, the play holds our interest, if only for its visceral audacity- -
FOG OF WAR Sheldon Penner's provocative, if not fully persuasive, play appears infused with political sensibilities. Upon furtherr examination, however, this muscular piece is more precisely a doo qWut empirical truth in time of crisis. The rosy pinewGod waRs Iset by Ivonski) of Neil Cjopeland's~jVaughn Armstrong) house in the, hills witness its (somewhat improbable.) requisitioning by a 611 6f-the "Amr9rican Peoples Republic," consisting of strapping Mafik (Billy Mayo), teenagor tearaway Li'l Tee (Mister) and Mite tohartIeona(Lissa'Uyng)..During the unfolding drama, Neil's daughter, Casey (Elena Fasanj, and Latin American housekeeper, Marta (Jill Remez), find their sympathies jostled. Malik and Leona claim that L.A. will shortly be controlled by their foot soldiers, but with most media silenced, who can validate the claim? And how deeply does the combat group believe its movement's propaganda? Meanwhile, transformations abound: Malik, from "Original Gangster" to revolutionary; Marta, from domestic help to doctor (her former vocation); while the teenagers oscillate between paralytic terror and vengeful anger, Orchestrating a busy production, director Jeff Murray highlights each character's epiphanies. Remez exudes a quiet dignity, Mayo is often resounding and Armstrong brings modulated anguish as an entrenched father desperate for a pathway through the fog of civic anarchy. Ventura Court Theater, 12417 Ventura Court, Studio City; Thurs,-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 730 p.m.; thru Aug. 15. (818) 763-0245, (Paul B. Cohen)
OTHER SHORE Review for CITYBEAT
by PATRICK CORCORAN Oct 30/2003
Whos In Charge Here?
In a striking whirl of images 'The Other Shore' explores how leaders and followers interact
SOMETHING ABOUT THE avant-garde makes it suited to totalitarian societies. The tension between the official version of reality and life as it is actually lived is a fertile breeding ground for absurdity, and literal-minded censors often overlook imagistic or nonrepresentational forms of art.
Gao Xingjian's The Other Shore, currently having its West Coast premiere in a production by Sons of Beckett Theate Co., was not so lucky. Banned in mainland China, this work is a series of allegories exploring the nature of human society and the constantly shifting relationship between leaders and the Led. Indeed, the implicit and thoroughgoing critique ofChinese society is so clear, it's hard to imagine the future Nobel laureate ever considered it being allowed on stage.
Beginning with a series of games involving ropes, the play enacts the evanescent nature of societal bonds. In a striking series of images the actors are bound, drawn toward one another, spun away. The ropes become a rippling body of water that beckons them to the titular other shore. That "other shore" becomes both a utopian destination.- call it a Cultural Revolution, a Great Leap Forward, maybe a War on Terror: the undefined, open-ended nature of the project as a rallying cry is the point of the endeavor - and an imagined space where Xingjian can explore his themes and attempt to fly under the censors'radar.
On that other shore, the group, exhausted from its treacherous crossing, creates a society from scratch. A delightful exploration of language builds on simple words - hand, foot, 1, you, him, her - and continually spins out of control as meanings are misapprehended and mangled. The sequence ends with the murder of the woman who taught them language in the first place. Shocked, the survivors choose a leader who refuses to lead. The)y fall into a card game in which the deck is stacked and they are doomed to lose. Now they reject their leader for refusing to follow
And so the play goes, in a sometimes charming, sometimes haunting whirl of music, dance, and archetypal scenes. The crowd is easily led, refuses to be led, devolves into a passive herd or a menacing pack. The people are pushed and prodded by hucksters, whores, and spiritual gurus. Sometimes they push back., but always the target of their anger is the one who won't go along. The reluctant and rejected leader is on his own path to understanding, and the needs of the group cannot accommodate him.
The cast moves with ease and grace through Efin McBride
Africa's often witty choreography. Standouts in the generally solid assembly
include Elly Jaresko, a gifted dancer who also brings an impressive, subtle
range, whether as the teacher of language, a prostitute, or a member of
the crowd; Coati Mundi (compadre of Kid Creole), who adds his distinctive
croak and musicianship to a number of roles; and Brian Johnson, who makes
for an amiable schlemiel of an everyman.Jeffrey Wienckowski's direction
brings as much drive and visual invention to the
production as the awkward space at Theatre/Theater can hold. Scale is the only minus here. Something in The Other Show calls for the vast spaces and stark imageryof a Robert Wilson production, and both Wienckowskis kimages and Xingjian' s themes need room to achieve their full impact. Still, what this production
has accomplished on a limited budget and in an even more limited setting speaks volumes for this company's ambitions.
Despite the title, there's little foolishness In this one-man show, "nonsense" being English *long for "child molester." Dan Hildebrand Is Ronnie, a street-tough Olympic modal-winning boxer looking back on his short, explosive past. He works out as he talks, frenetically *parring, lifting weights and jumping rope. Through Kevin Cotter's rich text and Barry Philip's direction, Hildebrand paints vivid pictures of Ronnie's childl a o , his title bout at Wembly, and the Council of Thieves that he joins up with. Though the ariecdotes, at first seam arbitrary and include such tangents as one friend's dr~ of literally marrying money and a description of another friend, who has a page of The Caretaker tattooed "Just below the left nipple," the last third of the play pulls them together in a one-two punch that can't be ignored. Unlike Rick Reynold's Only the Truth Is Funny, this show has a point - it offers more than sad stories and a few laughs. Though Hildebrand's Ronnie may question, even rage against the sorrow he's known, he doesn't wallow in It. He's a fighter in every sense, imbued by Hildebrand with exceptional depth, a sense of Irony and the humor of those who've survived the worst. Although the evening offers Its share of laughs, many of them are unfortunately lost amid the Brit lingo. Still, Hildebrand gives an astounding performance of an original, thought-provoking work. Theatre/Theater, 1713 Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.: Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; no show Fri., Oct. 18; Indef. (213) 464-8938.
Written by Kevin Cotter
Directed by Andrew Kazamia
With Dan Hildebrand
"Everything theater should be: compelling, dramatic, raw, emotional, powerful and thoughtprovoking..." Reader
"A fascinating journey... a tour-de-force." LA Times.
" An astounding performance of an original thought-provoking work." LA Weekly
"A compelling journey of one man's coming of age... a challenging piece of theater."
"A remarkable performance." Drama-Logue
"A brilliant performance by Dan Hildebrand and (an) extraordinary script by Kevin Cotter." Village View
"As a piece of theatre, Dan Hildebrand's solo saga of a rough diamond seeking redemption is nothing short of a tour-de-force." City limits
"An interesting, if chilling idea that grows into a thought-provoking play... Hildebrand's assured and compelling performance is remarkable and mesmerising" The Stage
"A hard hitting play that packs a punch... horrifying drama, superbly acted." The Guardi n
"Hildebrand is superb... inside the finely tuned man-sized body is a child's irrational, emotionally stunted mind... a palpable hit." The Independant
"Hildebrand's performance in Cotter's play is an amazing tour-de-force. The tense and at times amusing dialogue is considerably more credible and disturbing than at first expected."
OEDIPUS THE KING
THEATER REVIEW By DAVID C. NICHOLS Special to The Times
Going slapstick with Sophocles
Wacky'Oedipus the King' views tragedy through absurdist lens.
It's raining seltzer water on Thebes in "Oedipus the King" at Theatre/Theater. This Sons of Beckett vaudevillian adaptation of Sophocles' deathless tragedy whips patricide, incest and manifest destiny into an uproarious blend of Tex Avery, Emle Kovacs and National Lampoon.
Director Jeffrey Wienckowski goes for old-time music hall, instantly evident from Brian Johnson's set, Tim Watson's footlights and the barbershop house mUsic. The Greek chorus of "OediPals" (c o mpos er- musical director Christopher P. Ellis, Kwvrin Ellis. Johnson and Marilyn Zaslow) are sublime. These ham-fisted liamionizers launch their insidious prologue with a glee that Is blindingly furiny.
So. mostly, is the show that follows. its twisted trajectory and fractured focus maintained by Wienckowski's costumes, arranger Heidi Kushnatsian's honky-tonk accompaniment and, certainly, the certifiable cast.
Jay Africa's Oedipus is an unflagging absurdist patsy, and the Winifred Shaw-flavored Jocasta, played by real-life spouse and choreographer Eiin McBtide Africa, defles rational analysis. The religious and sheep-tending factions of Richard-Edward de Vere and Eric Carter; Kelli Anne's cocktail - waitress Euridice; and the inbred nightmare pair of Asia Garcia's Antigone and Anna Kennelly Baardsen's Ismene are all hysterical. Wienckowski's blind Teireseas needs direction but fractures nonetheless, and, as the pickled Kreon, Chairman Bames is a devastating comic find.
The savage climax can't be sustained without dropping comedy for Grand Guignol melodrama; how to reach a tragicomic resolution with the sick hilarity of a John Waters is an unsolved riddle.
Still, this goofball romp is surely the brightest deconstructed Grecian formula since Steven Berkofl7s "Greek," which augurs well for its future.
'Oedipus the King'
Where: Theatre/Theater, 4525
Hollywood Blvd., 4th Floor,
When: Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays,
2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays', 2 & 7 p.m.
Ends: Aug. 16
Info: (818) 785-9558
Runnine time 2 hours. 10 minutes
A 'Parking Lot' full of intriguing talent
A refreshing authorial voice distinguishes "The Parking Lot Plays,"' at Theatre/Theater in 'Hollywood. Cybele May's omnibus of one-acts examines some hot-button issues with considerable refinement, though the sum of its parts transcends some of the parts.
Although linked by Mark Worthington's evocative setting, the six plays are self-sustaining, their individual subjects hinted at in the title of each.
This certainly applies to "A Family Affair" whose estranged couple unveils an Oresteian connection with a sardonic attack worthy of Shirley Jackson. "Digital Revolution, a dark comic polemic on recent advances in science, tickles while provoking ample thought.
Perhaps the peak achievements are "Tough Love," an absurdist park bench riff that effortlessly segues into high allegory, and "Demise, 99" an epic survivor's monologue recalling Jean Cocteau.
However, the inconclusive mix of satire and sobriety in "A Grave Mistake," an account of bereaved parents and cemetery mismanagement, could stand expansion. A Kent State elegy, "Four May,," while admirable in its objective., overreaches for significance.
Still,, May's talent is acute, as is the expertise of director Heidi Rose Robbins, the designers and the cast, which alternates at weekend shows.
The reviewed performance featured Nicolette Chaffey, Jeff Murray, Christine Avila, Michelle Allen,, Matt Skaja, Chris Johnston and the uncanny Gergana Mellin, all entirely'accomplished and intriguing. Which sums up "The Parking Lot Plays', and industry headhunters should scope out the inhabitants therein.
"The Parking Lot Plays," TheatreTheater, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Feb. 9. $15. (323) 871-9433.
Running tirne: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
THE PARKING LOT PLAYS
LA WEEKLY Recommended
Playwright Cybele May's collection of six short plays delves into deviant aspects of the human condition, touching on such skincrawling subjects as incest, genetic cloning and political massacres. And yet from within each a dollop of tenderness surfaces that puts stringent social mores into perspective. Too frequently, however, the characters engage in painful introspection, which drags behind the action like a dislodged anchor. And the conceit of setting all of the plays in parking lots is forced much of the time, though it at least spurs the action into fresh terrain, a pleasant change from couch-and-table dramas. Several pieces become platforms for social topics, but the production's highlight depicts an elderly Polish woman (a spellbinding Gergana Mellin) musing about her tragic life while crouching at a bus stop during a police shootout with bank robbers. This play is the strongest because character seamlessly blends with theme. Heidi Rose Robbins' straightforward direction keeps things moving, and the talented cast shines. Theater Machine at Theatre/ Theater, Fourth Floor, 6425 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. thru Feb. 9. (323) 871-9433. Wriften 1/9/03 (Luis Reyes)
Southern CA January 08, 2003
The Parking Lot Plays
Reviewed By Deny Margolies
Plot Complications: Caroline Carrigan, A. J. Schuermann, and James Sharpe in The Parking Lot Plays
"Why here?" asks the first character we meet,
standing in the parking lot of a
cemetery. Indeed these six snappy
one-acts, written by Cybele May
and directed by Heidi Rose
Robbins, take place in parking lots-
-some of necessity, some
tangentially. Parking lots are places
where we stop momentarily on a
quest. They also, for some
including Joni Mitchell, represent
paradise paved. May's writing
poses disquieting questions, then
gives us this concrete opportunity
to ponder some answers.
"A Grave Mistake" finds a husband and wife meeting a cemetery representative in the graveyard's parking lot. The representative, played by a nicely discomfited but deliberate A.J. Schuermann, must explain away a horrific error in the disposition of the couple's two deceased young daughters. James Sharpe and Caroline Carrigan well define the couple's coping mechanisms--his to repress, hers to lash out. In "A Family Affair' Scott Jay plays a husband who tracks down his wife as she leaves work to confront her over the reasons she insists on a divorce. Anne Rutters fully invested, finely energized performance as the wife drives this unsettling scene.
"Four May," based on the Kent State University killings, revives thoughts of the early 1970s while reflecting on personal and nationwide changes--or not--inspired by those events. Christine Avila appears as a woman visiting the on-campus site of her brother's massacre. One unfortunate aspect of the writing: Because it is based in historic fact, we may be left wondering which of the two young men gunned down was her brother.
Tough Love" is a paradoxically whimsical and profound, perhaps deliberately ambiguous work, in which a man courts a woman via a unique offer. Schuermann returns here as the part Jovian, part puppy-eyed suitor--paired with Rutter as the selfconfident object of his admiration and with Jay as his cupidplaying son. "Digital Revolution" finds Sharpe and Carrigan married again, this time in a wryly humorous piece about a man who lost his thumb in an accident and who looks for it (where else?) in the parking lot where the dismembering took place.
But the gut-wrenching, heart-stopping one-act here is to be found in "Demise," in which writing, direction, and the stellar performance of Gergana Mellin combine for a transcendent expeHence. In her direct-address monologue, Mellin takes us from her character's birth as a blue baby, through her narrow escape from imprisonment in a concentration camp, past her life as an Iowa farmwife, and to a precipitous moment in her present. Where Mellin's mind goes to build these moments we'll never know, but that she goes there with her every breath onstage is indisputable.
The cast alternates.
Playwright Steve Monroe
Director Tamara McDonough
Seenic designer Richard Mahaney
lighting designer Tim Speed
Kidd James DuMont
James Frank Cirad
Margaret Laura Jane Salvato
Ed Teether David Q. Combs
Phil Spin Michael C. Mahon
Steve Monroe's 90-minute, intermissionless comedy "Serious Games" is dead-on, full of laughs - even a bit shrewd.
All concerns the ritual of gainbling as practiced by a couple of super-superstitious football addicts who have orchestrated and codified their every Saturday move: a special diner where they eat/meet to discuss the odds of each game, the chairs they sit in while watching games, never watching commercials. etc.
Of course, the biggest no-no is watching games with women. Seems they have never won a bet when women are around.
Only on this given Saturday, bad luck lurks everywhere as
James (Frank Ciraci) and lKidd (James DuMont) settle down to the serious
business of football watching. Both are deeply in debt and have told their
bookie to bet all they owe
on this game.
Credit Richard Mahaney with the simple set: a couple of overstuffed chairs, a TV set, a dart board, etc.
James misses their usual Saturday breakfast and Kidd manages to get involved with sexy, needy waitress Margaret (Laura Jane 'Salvato), who must be the original Miss Bad Luck Girl. All three are terrific.
When Margaret suddenly appears at Kidd's door, she threatens to destroy their routine and bring bad luck James objects, and Mdd has to choose among his libido, the no-women rule, his bonding and co-dependency with the outraged James - not to mention his love of the game and gambling.
Soon, ifs two Jocks and a Jill as they watch/listen to the
wonderfully banal broadcast team of Ed Teether and Phil Spin (David Q. Combs
and Michael C. Mahon), a
sendup of the days of Don Meredith and Frank Gifford on ABC's "Monday Night Football."
Ultimately, Kidd must choose between Margaret and the established ritual of Saturday game watching with James. And thats a tough choice for the bemused Kidd.
Tamara McDonough's direction is sure and swift as she brings all of "Serious Games" to vivid life. And even though Monroe has planted football in-jokes throughout you don't have to be all that hip to the jargon. just enjoy.