Monday, May 8, 2017


The Gary Plays by Murray Mednick

These lengthy and very involved plays by Murray Mednick are worthy of a scholarly approach with attention to their inspiration.  I can highly recommend each one, but also recommend that seeing all three in one day will be overwhelming and exhausting.  Mednick’s writing smacks of the scholar that he most certainly is and the issues he embraces in such a way as to gather the audience in and then wrap them in an enigma that.. perhaps….. taken in smaller bites might be better served. 

 A Sunday marathon starting at noon at the Atwater Village Theater currently occupied by the Open Fist Theatre Company and running helter skelter through the afternoon and with a dinner break then starting again at seven until almost ten is a lot to absorb. So.. taking full responsibility for my own actions, nodding from time to time, it’s important to understand that if you adore challenging theatre, crisp and well defined direction, spot on characters presented by professional actors with amazing special effects, check the schedule and plan a well paced visit to see all three of The Gary Plays.
Amanda Weier, Jeff LeBeau, Derek Manson
Photo by Darrett Sanders

Based on a true story that happened to an actor friend of Mednick’s, the character Gary, played in the trilogy’s first iteration by Jeff LeBeau, whose dedication to the role exceeds whatever excellent might be.. Gary: the actor..  is faced with multiple challenges that stem from the murder of his young son, Danny (also excellent Josh Trant) and his relationship with his ex-wife, Danny's mother  (Laura Richardson) and their interaction forward and back in time. This includes another family whose pathway crosses Gary’s: Monica (Barbara Schofield) and Charles (Carl J. Johnson) and their hypersexy independent teen Laura (Laura Liguori).  The abstract and dream like quality of each of the three plays continues, not always in a linear fashion, making the narrative only a suggestion that may or may not be apparent to the audience.  A curtain speech allows that each of the three plays stands pretty much on its own, but to approach the material from anywhere but the beginning, it seems to me, would be cheating the playwright and the playgoer. Even with side trips and obscurities, there is a whole picture and there lies the story. 

To discuss the entire idea would be a long essay in and of itself.  The best thing to be said about these three plays is that Guy Zimmerman’s direction supplemented by extraordinary scenic projections by Hana S. Kim, is a dance well choreographed.  It’s more than just strong stage pictures. It’s individual actors dedicated to the stories with skills that remind me of the work exhibited by Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theatre in the heyday of experiment and strong statements on stage. The Gary Plays are more intellectual than visceral. 
Roderick Menzies and Laura Liguori
Photo by Darrett Sanders

Each of the three plays is made up of two sections
Part I: Tirade for Three / Girl on a Bed; 
Part II Gary’s Walk / Out of the Blue and
Part III DaddyO Dies Well / Charles’ Story Each is divided into smaller ‘acts’ that are sometimes announced by Chorus (Amanda Weier and Derek Manson who double as other characters in all three parts).  To spare the use of the term ‘excellent’ to describe director Zimmerman’s work with all of the cast members.. let it be said in no uncertain terms that his direction and the actors’ work is exemplary: completely dedicated to the Three Parts.

Expanding the Story of Gary, played in Part I by Jeff LeBeau, Part II: Kelly Van Kirk and Part III: Darrell Larson, we learn of the devastating effect of the loss of Gary’s son, Danny (Josh Trant) : a troubled kid who pals around with an addict/Vietnam vet, Rondell (Phillip C. Curry, whose basso profundo vibrates the theater!). Danny was murdered in a park, apparently, at random.

Telling the basic story of The Gary Plays in one fell swoop can never do justice to Mednick’s efforts. That said, throughout the three parts, the ensemble efforts of the entire team bring us a day long examination of difficult times with an underlying theme, perhaps, that “Money is more important than people!” Mendick’s characters flow flawlessly through the trials and tribulations of parenting, addiction, divorce, angst, self doubt, revenge, seeking refuge and therapy finding solace? as well as the on going question that we all ask about life and death.  Is the end, the end? 
Peggy Ann Blow, Elizabeth Lande, Derek Manson,
Kelly Van Kirk and Roderick Menzies
Photo by Darrett Sanders

Flash and evil Antonio (Peggy Ann Blow!) doubles as a well meaning high school counselor.  In Gary’s Walk, timing with beautiful projections works wonderfully. Long diatribes by hipster DaddyO (Roderick Menzies) in Out of the Blue conducts Gary (Van Kirk) through a barfing personal search with a guided Ayahuasca ceremony (peyote!) with Mama Bean (Elizabeth Lande) holding court. The trilogy twists forward to Charles’ Story where we find Gary (Larson), now a “performance artist employee” of a fancy Malibu rehab center. Here, movie producer Todd (Norbert Weisser) conducts business after his third (or so..) detox who mind dances with group therapy.  As the Malibu fire advances toward the blue Pacific (where Gary has longed to deposit the ashes of his dead son in the former piece).. we find that Charles emerges as the one who has more than likely overcome his issues with his wife and the death of his daughter.  Fling into the mix references to Greek mythology’s Trojan Wars, Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, the scholarship of this trilogy of plays takes on epic proportions.  
Darrell Larson and Norbert Weisser
Photo by Darrett Sanders

As I sometimes say, this is not for the feint of heart.. or the faint of heart and that one hopes that the experience of these plays informs the serious playgoer.  Anyone looking for a quick theatre fix is better directed to any of the ongoing shows that feature an easy two or three hours that won’t make them do much work to be informed or entertained.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that! 

That said, Highly recommended for the patient folks who support challenging theatre. Start with Part I.

THE GARY PLAYS by Murray Mednick
The Open Fist Theatre Company
The Atwater Village Theater
3269 Casitas Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90039  
Performances: May 4-June 4
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p,m.
Tickets and information:
(323) 882-6912 or

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