Sunday, January 19, 2014

DISCORD at NoHo Arts

Armin Shimerman, David Melville and Larry Cedar
PHOTO CREDIT:  Michael Lamont

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy:  DISCORD 
by Scott Carter

Playwright Scott Carter’s heady imagining of a meeting of great minds, huge egos and inevitable questions unfolds in a limbo reminiscent of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” and Tad Mosel’s “Impromptu.”  A stark bare space.  A modern door.

“Don’t Close The Door!”  Catapulted through a modern door we meet a taller Thomas Jefferson (Larry Cedar) to find three aluminum Navy chairs, a bare white walled enclosure, a table with drawers that do not open.  The Fourth Wall, a mirror in which Jefferson finds himself attractive.  He examines his new surroundings.

Jefferson is followed by colorfully costumed Charles Dickens (foppish David Melville) who ignores Jefferson’s shout, “Don’t close the door!!”  Brilliant dialogue sprinkled substantially with familiar quotes or partial quotes pit the 18th century Jefferson against the 19th century Dickens and then the two become three with the arrival of Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (bearded and barefoot Armin Shimerman), who also allows the door to close. Three brilliant minds: Tolstoy aware of Jefferson and Dickens, Dickens aware of Jefferson and Jefferson without a clue to the other two.  Thus begins a heady inspection of morals, ethics, confessions and inquiries brilliantly mounted on Takeshi Kata’s crisp white walls with projected graphics by Jeffrey Elias Teeter that are becoming standard fare even for smaller theatres today. 

What may have become a simple/not so simple talking heads piece, under Matt August’s able direction, we encounter three entirely different characters in a pas des trois literally pacing, almost dancing around the table that eventually relinquishes its drawers to reveal a quill, a dip pen and a fountain pen; blank journals and a King James Bible.  This leads to the three thinkers beginning to dictate their own personal “gospels” examining ‘personal truths’ which may eventually set them free.

Wealth and power permeate the text.  Tolstoy eventually abandoned … or so he says, all of his copyrights.  Jefferson discusses the difficulties of being responsible for so much of his personal life and the lives of his slaves (including Sally Hemmings) and the new United States of America.   Dickens relates his difficult early youth and eventual successes including the guilt of abandoning his wife.  And, then, they pace.

Fine tech introduces hash marked ‘chapters’ with animated projections which become a palpable part of the play.  Perfect lighting by Luke Moyer and authentically theatrical costumes by Ann Closs-Farley are wonderful. To fully enjoy the dialogue, familiarity with the three men is a must.  To each actor’s credit, and to director August’s imaginative stage pictures, we get a feeling for each man’s times in style and approach.   Read up.  Go see it!

The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy:  DISCORD 
By Scott Carter
NoHo Arts Center
11136 Magnolia Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601
Runs January 17  through February 23, 2014
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8PM
Sundays at 3PM
$35 Top
818 508 7101 Ex 6

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