The American premiere of Oliver Cotton's Daytona, directed by Elina de Santos, features veteran actors Richard Fancy, Sharron Shayne and George Wyner.
|George Wyner and Sharron Shayne|
Having enjoyed Ms de Santos' Awake and Sing at The Odyssey two years ago, I looked forward to seeing a new play with her at the helm. A conscientious director can suggest the thread of the play and together with the professionals, they find the way.
Ms de Santos employs a subtle hand. Over hearing her comment at the intermission, 'Evidently, I am no longer in control,' may have been an indication that my earlier observation might have been a little off? However, the depth and breadth of the story in, perhaps, an abbreviated version might have been more appealing. Designer Hillary Bauman's mid-eighties New York City apartment reflects the simple tastes of Elli (Shayne) and her husband of forty years, Joe (Wyner). At rise, they skillfully rehearse for a seniors' dance competition, bickering lightly, they show that their relationship has passed the test of time.
Oliver Cotton's play moves slowly and deliberately. The phone rings: no one there and then, a buzz on the buzzer announces a visitor.
"Who is it?"
"Billy the kid!.. Billy! I'm your brother!"
Billy (Fancy) arrives at the door shivering with the winter cold. Joe is shocked to see him. It's been many years since the camps and their younger days in 1945. At 72 and 74 Billy and Joe have a history .. a complicated history that involves some business dealing that is in question, as well as their mutual connection to Elli.
Joe's reluctance to see his brother warms as Billy removes his coat to reveal an Aloha shirt and eventually a long, long, long story about a sleazy hotel in Daytona (thus the name of the play) as well as where he has been for all these years... with a new non-Jewish name, living in Ohio with a wife and two kids and doing well in real estate. Now, things have taken a turn for the worse.
Billy's extended monologue is slow to reveal that while in Daytona, he is positive that he has discovered a familiar face: Gruper (Gruber?) a sadistic Nazi guard who killed Jews in the camp for sport. How Fancy has committed this monologue to memory is laudable. That director de Santos has done her best to keep the story moving is something that seems close to impossible because the over wordiness has us slogging step by step with Billy as he recounts in minute detail the discovery of the Nazi guard and, finally his solution to his grim discovery.
The tension created by Billy's arrival and confession to his brother of what happened in Daytona, as well as Act II revelations as to how Elli factors into the mix may work by the actors having somewhat overcome the script. Ms Shayne, absent for most of the first act, returns to the surprise of encountering Billy after many years to reveal their own intriguing connection.
|Sharon Shayne and Richard Fancy|
Act II has uncomfortable bumps now and then with uneven performances. Tensions rise and fall.The outcome is fraught with moral dilemma. Cotton breaks the dramatic rule about a gun on stage.
Cotton, a British actor, may have stepped outside his comfort zone to pen a story about Jewish immigrants in New York City. Accents are difficult, at best, to bring off on stage and with Billy's chosen seclusion in Ohio, "you always sounded like a Yank," Joe says; Joe's indeterminate voice and especially difficult to decipher, Elli's German, Jewish sound, getting all of the dialogue was not easy. With a couple of Opening Night mix ups, pace and length factored in.
Daytona by Oliver Cotton
Directed by Elina de Santos
The American Premiere
Rogue Machine Theatre
Opened September 9, 2017
Saturdays and Mondays at 8:30
Sundays at 3PM
Through October 30, 2017
No performances 9/25 and 10/2
1089 N. Oxford Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029
Tickets and information:
855 585 5185