|Susan Wilder, Stephen Tyler Howell, Luke McClure, |
Eve Danzeisen, Eric Curtis Johnson, Bruce Nozick
Photo: Jeannine Wisnosky Stehlin
This world premiere of John Bunzel's "Boxing Lessons" unfolds with a slightly familiar theme and lands somewhat pat: bringing together the estranged family of a famous novelist whose naked body has been discovered floating in the bay off one of the San Juan Islands. As they arrive the family is stuck with the remnants of the novelist's life and tasked with boxing it up. That, and finding the elusive will that is vital for the estate to be settled.
Celebrated author Paul Green's major claim to fame is the Christmas classic Suck My Thumb which is read annually by millions around the world during the holiday season. Green's reputation is now at risk. The Truth is not an ally in this family. After his divorce from Meg (lovely Susan Wilder) the mother of Ned and Judy (Luke McClure and Eve Danzeisen), the author sought refuge in a funky old cabin on an island on Puget Sound.
For reasons that slowly emerge, Paul has, evidently, become finished with life. He's sent a text message to his former lover, Billy (Bruce Nozick), with whom he has spent a good deal of time romantically as well as creatively. They won Emmy's for a special they produced. Paul's text announced that he planned to commit suicide. Billy has returned to the island after mysteriously vanishing years ago. His goal is to find the Will and cash in on Paul's estate.
The family reunites opening old wounds, saddled with boxing up the remnants of Paul's life and to find the missing Will. The clutter in the cabin makes this a major challenge.
Meg arrives with claws extended, hovering over her adopted son, Steve (Stephen Tyler Howell) the fluttering "on the Spectrum". Meg extolls the "might have beens" in her life while jousting with her two natural kids. Ned is a cynical and newly tenured college professor in the midwest having arrived in a tizzy only to have the situation exacerbated by his bossy sister, Judy who needs money.
Sheriff Bob (Eric Curtis Johnson) is a long time family friend and as the elected official on the island will protect Paul's reputation at any cost for personal reasons that blossom late in the argument of the play. Family secrets are revealed.
The mystery as to why a celebrated seventy year old author would take his own life by wading naked into fifty five degree water instead of using a shotgun still moldering in the closet is never explained to satisfaction.
Thanks to the least likely of the six characters to emerge with answers, Steve and his eidetic memory solve the mystery and all's well that ends well... more or less.
John Iacovelli's beautifully cluttered set fills the tiny New American Theatre stage. Jack Stehlin's deft direction smoothly choreographs the actors into creative stage pictures. Personal revelations and sniping reminiscent of Albee's Virginia Woolf... reminds us of that author's demise... ending with an enigmatic footnote from the author's hand.
Strong acting chops make the dark story work. The last word is silence.
Boxing Lessons by John Bunzel
A World Premiere
New American Theatre
New American Theatre
1312 Wilton Place
Hollywood, CA 90028
Through June 2, 2019
Friday and Saturday @ 8 pm
Sunday @ 3 pm
Tickets and information:
310 424 2980