Having recently seen LOVE AND MERCY, the film based on the life of Brian Wilson, seeing Neil Koenigsberg‘s OFF THE KING’S ROAD is at once charming as well as being the sort of thing that brings one to consider the business of aging in the world, especially in the United States and how each of us deals with the inevitable. We must employ Love and we must absolutely employ Mercy in our dealings with one another. Having a close friend in the throes of dementia right now and understanding more than I might like to understand about end of life issues, absorbing the message in what we usually call a ‘straight play’ takes on a life of its own.
For more than fifty years, actor Tom Bower (Matt Browne) has been a theatre person. Though playing an older character, the energy of the guy is palpable. He weathers the weary efforts of a man whose wife has died and now, he is alone and lonely. He has been in the care of psychiatrist Dr. Yablonsky (harried Thaddeus Shafer) for the past six months and is now in London in an attempt to find some happiness as a widowed person. He is dealing with major issues that have brought him all the way from California to this charming pension, Off The King's Road, the name and the location in question.
Joel Daavid’s excellent set is put to excellent use with excellent effects, including really effective and excellent interstitial music by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinsky. The matinee that I saw had a few glitches that will smooth out as the run gets fully on its feet, however, Amy Madigan’s smooth and sensitive direction keeps her diverse cast all on the same page and energetic.
We meet Freddie (Michael Uribes) the perfectly enthusiastic concierge for the charming old Victorian turned guest hotel just off The King’s Road where casual guests and one resident call home. The resident, Ellen Mellman (protean Casey Kramer), is the very model of a slightly lumpy yet very modern middle aged Brit who is also lonely. She brightens considerably at the arrival of Matt. She has a cat, Christina, who factors eloquently into the plot. Meanwhile, Matt is attempting to have some fun and with the shrink’s help (whom he calls in the middle of the day in London and the middle of the night in California) he employs a large blackboard to plot his London Adventures. Matt has also factored in something that some might find unusual for a man in or approaching his seventies. He calls her “Jenna.” She’s inflatable and marginally cuddly. We also meet Sheena, (gorgeous Maria Zyrianova) not the queen of the jungle, but an import from Zagreb, who firmly requests her fee in advance.
The chemistry of the cast and the poignancy of this story makes me want to see it again after it’s been cooking for a little while. One major issue, however, is with the conclusion of the play. To me, how much better it would be to bring the curtain down three minutes sooner. We were ready for the end and for reasons that made no sense to me, it rather stumbled off into the dark.
OFF THE KING’S ROAD by Neil Koenigsberg
The Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Through August 2, 2015
Tickets and Information:
323 960 7712