Friday, February 19, 2016


When Brooke Bishop and Daniel Landberg crossed the country in search of love, it was a two fold quest.  They wanted to find couples whose love was lasting and they also wanted to explore "Moment Work" with which to create a continuing art form that uses specific dialogue from real people. Their inspiration was from the play that became The Laramie ProjectHOW LOVE LASTS  is the product of many hours of interviews that boil down to a cast of six (Claudia Crook, Eduardo Fernandez-Baumann, David Harstone, Briana McLean, Samantha Smart and Paul Weinberg), all of whom are in the ‘ensemble’ of the show as well as portraying ten different characters.

The Echo Theatre is set up for their current production, Bed, which features a huge bed in the middle of the stage with seating half way surrounding it.  Many of the seats, besides press seats, were marked "Reserved" as the audience entered the theater.  Lights up and the cast, rather like the cast of A Chorus Line, introduce themselves.  Then, the confusing part begins.  To director Brook Bishop’s credit, the actors were all in the same play at the same time with a ton of dialogue.  We have a gay couple; a couple that involved a straight married woman more or less seduced by another woman who took years to recognize the lesbian in her mirror; other couples that were, frankly, difficult to keep track of as the actors played scenes not only on the stage but while seated in the audience.    Even though there was little of real dramatic interest, except, perhaps,  for the stocky gay partner who won an aerobics championship and insisted that his partner who had not come out to his family start treating him like what he was: his partner. We see and hear Texas people, Colorado people, southern people, gay and straight all working out partner issues, but as quickly as you decided that the thinner of the two gay guys (after a juicy smooch) was whom he was, he morphed into a straight guy who was in love with a woman. 

In a book called Seven Arrows, my mother, bless her, was confused because the minute she figured out who one character was, it would evolve into another.  That’s the way I felt throughout most of this exercise in Love. To the actors’ credit, the work and natural characterizations settled in nicely after my first note “Lots of ‘acting.’”  To the playwrights’ credit (who meticulously culled the lengthy conversations they recorded on their cross country journey), the characters were well defined. 
Briana McLean and Eduardo Fernandez-Baumann
Photo by Mandy Stoller
The actor who reminded me of Gene Simmons of Kiss sat behind me and because of the relative instability of the risers, every time he and his wife who sat next to him moved, that whole section of the audience was jostled. I prefer to experience the play more from a distance.  Unlike Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, where one character trysts with another and then one goes off to have a connection to the next and so on until the last trysts with the first in the series of several scenes, these characters were in and out of the audience, changing costume pieces and challenging the audience to figure out who was whom.  

As an acting exercise this piece is a great workout for actors.  As they are all about the same age, defining characters who were older and younger was slightly problematic. 

I was interested in Ms Bishop’s discussion in the press notes about “Moment Work.”  It was as though it was a revelation that 'being in the moment' is essential to creating any sort of theatre.  It makes me impatient to see well meaning folks reinvent the wheel and call it something new

Had Ms Bishop found a way to have the actors seated or standing around the stage or to the sides instead of seated directly in the audience, the theatricality of the piece might have worked better for me.  Across from me where the gay couple sat together and worked on their lasting love, the woman seated directly next to them was clearly distressed. It was not deliberate Theatre of Cruelty, as the scene was supposedly in private, but the device simply did not work.

When emerging playwright/director/producer/actors step out to try things, that alone deserves applause.  Hopefully, How Love Lasts may be reduced to fewer changing characters and a way may be found to make following the plot lines of the several couples less of a challenge. 

*written by (Every word … verbatim… from the five couples interviews)
via Brooke Bishop and Daniel Lundberg
Thursdays at 8PM
Through March 24, 2016
Echo Theatre
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Tickets and Information
310 307 3753

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