Monday, January 27, 2020


 The Odyssey Theatre, shepherded by Ron Sossi, celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with recollections of the Early Days. Sossi's dedication to 'important' theatre and challenging productions that engage the audience allows us to go beyond an evening of simply being entertained has sustained The Odyssey since its inception in 1969.  

In an interview with Sam Shepard: 
New York in the Early Sixties: 
“On the Lower East Side there was a special sort of culture developing. You were so close to the people going to the plays, there was really no difference between you and them -- your own experience was their experience, so that you began to develop that consciousness of what was happening...
I mean nobody knew what was happening, but there was a sense that something was going on.... a community was being established. It was a very exciting time.” 
-Interview in Theatre Quarterly pg.6-8
Carl Weintraub Photo by Enci Box

The unique voice of Sam Shepard is one of the brightest and most important theatrical voices of the Twentieth Century.  His passion for the words.. the poetry of his characters circles back to finding ways to share his work from the days of experimental contemporary theatre.  

Director Darrell Larson's personal friendship with Shepard and his own avid devotion to 'relevant' theatre informs these two short pieces in a more intimate way than other directors might present them.  Shepard's words and the unusual circumstances in both pieces speak to "modern" audiences of the sixties as well as to audiences here in the 21st Century. 

Featuring  actor Steve Howey, "Killer's Head" opens the evening. Mazon sits in an electric chair. He is blindfolded.  Stark lighting. The actor's ramble  is difficult to understand as he internalizes thoughts pausing on the brink of eternity. Spheres of memory: pick up trucks and horses and cowboy stuff tumble forth. This may be Shepard looking deep into his love of the west or just a tale to test the patience of the audience. Richard Gere played Mazon forty five years ago. It would have been interesting to see his version. Various actors will limn this part through the run.

  "The Unseen Hand" lands us on a grubby roadside probably the old Route 66 Highway that runs through Azusa and Arcadia. Blue (Carl Weintraub) clambers out of the hulk of an old Chevy convertible with a no-strings guitar and other stuff.  He may live there.. if there is a there there. He may be movin' on. He may be stayin'. It may be 1969. It may be the 1880s, 
Odd rumblings and Steven Kent smoke effect produce Willie (Matt Curtin), an alien from another time, another planet, where his race has descended from baboons! The mark of an unseen hand attends his brow. 

Add to the mix the heart of the piece, Andrew Morrison as The Kid from Azuza, who after being chucked from a fast moving car, he bears the stripes of  being beaten soundly by some kids from Arcadia.  He recites with joy the wonderfulness of every landmark in Azusa: a home town tribute. From A to Z in the USA!
We meet Blue's brothers from the Old West, Cisco,  the gunslinger (Jordan Morgan), and smooth and lethal Sycamore (Chris Payne Gilbert). Getting the old gang back together ain't gonna be workin' out the way it used ta.  
In his director's notes, Larson discusses the issue of "toxic masculinity." The boys recall the fun they had "robbin', raping, and killin'". It's an acid trip that the actors launch directly through the fourth wall.  What it all means will emerge somehow to what each member of the audience takes home after this romp back and forth in time and space. 
Song Yi Park's set is perfectly strewn illuminated with Bosco Flannagan's lights bringin' it all in.

Killer's Head goes up with the following actors on the dates listed.
Chris Payne Gilbert (Jan. 31-Feb. 2)
Dermot Mulroney (Feb 7-9, Feb. 14-16)
Magnus Jackson Diehl (Feb. 20-23)
Jeff Kober (Feb. 28-March 1)
Jonathan Medina (March 6-8)

by Sam Shepard
Directed by Darrell Larson
Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. 
Sundays at 2 p.m. 
Runs through March 8, 2020
Additional weeknight performances  
Wednesday, Feb. 5; Thursday, Feb. 20; and Wednesday, March 4, 2020 all at 8 p.m. 
Reservations and information:
(310) 477-2055  

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