THE CHARM OF MAKING by Timothy McNeil
The director and cast in this production by the Stella Adler Los Angeles Theatre Collective have a list of credits that stretch the length of Hollywood Boulevard. Their inaugural effort, The Charm of Making by Timothy McNeil is, at best, an effort that may have looked better on the page than it does upon the stage. Alain Villeneuve’s set speaks to us as the audience settles. Empty picture frames and odds and ends set pieces may reflect the oddball Mississippi family, but it basically seemed to say that this was a set done quickly and inexpensively. The opening scene has Elvin (Thor Edgell) and his quirky sister Morgan (Bonnie McNeil) seated in a theatre audience listening to Romeo and Juliet played by Timothy McNeil. (His character’s name is Romeo and Juliet. He also wrote the play)… R and J recites the last lines of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Elvin is in tears. Shakespeare’s tragic romance, somehow the spine of this off beat theatre project, immediately puts the audience on notice that they are in for a ride that will not be altogether comfortable.
The plot explores, among many things, the weird circumstance of Morgan’s sitting on the roof of the church naked and Elvin’s unexpressed gay yearnings (except for his arrival in a tight sparkling gown, though most cross dressers would argue that dressing up has nothing to do with being gay) and then in the second act when an antiques dealer, Paul (Alfredo J. Orrego) shows up and some smooching with Elvin commences. One unfortunate casting choice was May Quigley Goodman as Lottie, the pixilated elderly matriarch (twice the actress's actual age) in a really bad wig who attempts to seduce a shy eighteen year old, Cameron (Nicholas Hargous) whose discomfort with his character as well as just being uncomfortable on the stage adds to the confusion. The introduction of Elvin’s brother, Samuel (Jon Boatwright), the Baptist minister, who eases his his ulcer with Pepto and his wife (T.M. Rawlins) eventually lead to Morgan’s demise by shipping her off to the looney bin. Almost.
Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams may be spinning in their graves while Ionesco does a slow turn as to whether or not The Charm of Making may or may not be Theatre of the Absurd. The characters ramble in southern accents on tangents that occasionally make sense, but mostly just don’t. McNeil’s use of Shakespeare to move the piece along must have been a device that made sense to him. His occasional appearance as Romeo and Juliet, apparently only visible to Elvin, reciting Shakespeare and singing was just odd. The whole play is odd. The up side is that the actors were committed to their roles and to Director Justice’s credit, though the southern accents were not that great, they were, consistent.
THE CHARM OF MAKING
Through April 25, 2010
Stella Adler Theatre
6773 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028
For tickets call: 323 360 7735