Night and Day at LATC: TRANSFIGURATION
A trek to the Los Angeles Theatre Center is an adventure. Friday night in Downtown L.A., especially with the Stones down the street, is a mixed bag of delights. The double one act bill in Theatre Two is a mixed bag. “Transfiguration” refers to changes that the characters in both plays, Harvey Fierstein’s 1987 On Tidy Endings and the “World Premiere” of Rod Bramback’s TransMe are experiencing.
I first encountered Harvey Fierstein’s work at Ted Schmidtt’s Circle Theatre in the late seventies. The first play in Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, The International Stud, was about a gay relationship. What I realized then was that when human beings have romantic feelings for one another, gay or straight, they are deep and personal. I’d never really thought much about gay men’s or women’s relationships, but through Fierstein’s adept rendition in that one act, I began to understand.
Understanding and grieving illuminate Fierstein’s 1987 one act: On Tidy Endings. Colin, the former husband of Marion (excellent and nuanced Renee Kelly) and father of eleven year old Jimmy (Nick Ikovic-Frick) has died of AIDS. For the past three years he and his husband/companion, Arthur (Ricardo Salcido), have lived as a couple in a New York condo that was originally purchased during Marion’s sixteen year marriage to Colin. After Colin’s coming out, Marion moved on. She remarried but shared custody of Jimmy. She came to be supportive and understanding of Colin’s choices. I could ‘hear’ the playwright’s voice in every line, articulate and funny; casual and caustic, as Marion and Arthur struggle with the deep loss that both are experiencing. Jekyns Pelàez’s direction is simple. By necessity, perhaps, Heather Fipps’ scenic design facilitates a living room in the process of becoming an empty room. Acting styles are straightforward and realistic. Appropriately over the top Heather Holli Oliver plays June, the attorney more worried about her parking situation than the business at hand.
For some reason the Monty Python line “And now for something completely different” has been popping into my head recently. The second one act in Transfiguration, TransMe by Rod Brumback can only be described as a college mish mash of fun and nonsense dealing with another sort of ‘coming out.’ Ionesco meets Thornton Wilder’s Antrobus Family might be one way to describe the shenanigans. Chris, a transgender male who has been living in New York City as a woman for three years, (Alain Thai), returns home to confront his rural Georgia family of odd balls and reveal his/her life path. A mixture of broad college review and silliness, the diverse cast of Cal State Los Angeles students under loose direction of Whitney LaBarge, what at first sounds like a poignant coming out story quickly crumbles into Chris’s being the most normal of the bunch. What might have been an opportunity for the issue of transgender as an evolving situation in society to be discussed becomes a burlesque in which the entire cast (on the stage and off) are mostly in celebration of themselves. Of course, this is a college production and some leeway may be in order. I really don’t like to use the term ‘for a college production’ and won’t. But, you get the idea. The contrast between On Tidy Endings and TransMe is like night and day. A supportive opening night audience loved the latter.
LA Theatre Center
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Through May 12, 2013
Tickets and Information
866 811 4111
www. Thelatc. org