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Saturday, October 23, 2021

THE SOLDIER DREAMS

 

 
Stevie-Jean Placek, Amy Moorman,
Casey Sullivan and Conor Lane
(Ethan Niven in bed)
Photo by Frank Ishman 
 
THE    SOLDIER DREAMS  
BY
Daniel MacIvor
 
This will be an odd post unless I figure out how the alignment can be  justified.  "Justice?"  Redemption? The former may not factor into MacIvor's play, but redemption might.
The way that  Open Fist presents a play is always unique and a joy to review.  Live theatre is personal and invigorating and worth while. We must be with others. To be with the audience.  This gives us perspective.  There are laughs and ironies that really must have a response. We were a small audience. The applause at the dancing climax was hearty. Deservedly so.
 
 The  odd hour (4PM) for the opening of this play (which will combine later with MacIvor's "Never Swim Alone".. good advice) puts us at a sort of matinee.  It really doesn't matter because we enter into the dark: 
The lights come up. 
We're in another land. 
In fact, we are in Dreamland and the land of the deathwatch. 
In her curtain speech, Carmelia Jenkins as Nurse Nancy the Nurse quietly relates C19 reminders and directions to quick exits : "just in case.'  
Mostly, I can do without a curtain speech. 
This one made me feel like I was on a Frontier Airlines quickie where the passengers mostly attempting to open a bag of peanuts, instead of learning how to save our skins should we 
crash into the ocean. 
David (David Shofner, the dreamed David) introduces himself and his situation. We meet his two sisters, Judy (Stevie-Jean Placek) and Tish (Amy Moorman) and Tish's husband, Sam (Casey Sullivan) and David's lover Richard (Conor Lane in a strong turn)  on deathwatch at dying David's bedside. The family dynamic is highly charged.  This is a good thing. Charged is good when waiting for a loved one to die in a play written perhaps for the eighties;  the looming spectre of AIDS 
and those sad times remembered.
Jan Munroe's simple set and Matt Richter's lighting (which almost becomes another character in the play) serve well. Director Amanda Weier has chosen to make  Munroe's  wide playing area into a sort of tennis court where the audience must  swivel  back and forth from time to time to take in all of the visuals.This was distracting to me.
"The Soldier Dreams" comes from a quote in the text where, in a flash back/memory, a younger David has encounterd the Student / German Doctor (Schuyler Mastain, whom I shall call Fritz). The sexual tension  in the expository scenes return us to, perhaps, how David  may have come to such an end. Fritz's German accent made much of his dialogue difficult to understand, but the quote, "The Soldier Dreams..  but the war goes on," sticks.  
Of dying David (in bed Ethan Niven) we see only a tuft of hair just above the headboard allowing the dynamic of his family to relate to him and to one another easily. Now and then we hear a moan and the words "Ottawa" & "German Doctor" from the mostly comatose  David: clues to his demise?
More exposition comes with MacIvor's beautiful monologues from each of the death watch players: Tish explaining her bond with her younger brother using ASL finger spelling to communicate and do an end run on their strict father's 'rule' about talking at the dinner table. 
Hip kid sister,  Judy, relates her bond with her gay brother: having fun. David's lover Richard's discussion of the open relationship he shared with David is heartfelt. Sam's well played discomfort and ethos surrounding the whole of the time that is coming, each expertly rendered.
 
A couple of performances need assistance. Make no mistake, however,  this is a moving and well executed piece that plays smoothly. It really needs an audience to inform the players where the funny stuff is. Today's audience was small.  Sometimes I'll be asked, "Was it any good?" and for this one I need my somewhat stock answer, 
"I'd see it again."
Apologies for this odd format.  In editing, I'm finding that I kind of like it.
Please see this play.
Tell the Open Fist that onstagelosangeles recommended it to you. 

 

The Soldier Dreams

by Daniel MacIvor 

Directed by Amanda Weier

The Open Fist Theatre Company

Atwater Village Theatre 

3269 Casitas Ave.

 Los Angeles, CA 90039

On-site parking is free. 

For tickets, reservations and information, 

Please call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.

The Soldier Dreams opens with two performances on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 4.p.m. and 8:30 p.m., with performances continuing thereafter on Saturdays at 8:30 p.m.; Sundays at 7 p.m.; and Mondays at 8:15 p.m. through Sunday, Dec. 12 (dark Saturday, Nov. 27).  

Required caveat: 

• Proof of vaccination required of all patrons.
• Admittance limited to ages 12+.
• Masks required throughout the performance.
• Open Fist Theatre Company ensures that theater ventilation systems are up to the
recommended standard for COVID-19 protection.
• As long as the rate of COVID transmission in Los Angeles County remains “substantial,” household groups will be separated by six feet on all sides.
 


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Echo Theatre.. A S C E N S I O N

Fifty years ago this month, October, 1971, a shape shifter by the name of Werner Erhard released upon the world Erhard Seminars Training:  est (sic), employing a smattering of zen and North Korean brainwashing techniques, adherents were 'trained' to become better people: Better Human Beings. The 'training' only lasted for two weeks, but the shiny eyed emerged ready to change the world. Shades of Scientology (L.Ron Hubbard, 1953) and the subsequent iterations of est: the quest for 'answers' to our lives: spiritual, physical and mental, even eternal,  may lie just beyond that 'sign post up ahead' as we enter.. The Twilight Zone. (Cue musical sting..)

Anna voiced by Elise DuRant

Thank goodness for Chris Fields and the Echo Theatre's ability to defy convention and bring theatre to this threshold of inquiry.  

"Ascension: Noun

The act of rising to an important position or a higher level" 

D.G. Watson's world premiere inquiry into the Beyond or even the Great Beyond, presents a vague answer to what to do to advance the culture: to ascend.  I think. The play delivers attendees (please leave your phones on!) to  a roller coaster ride with opportunities for audience participation.  This part fails.

Dr. Monica Traver (Karen Sours Albisua) awakens to find herself in something of a "state."  Her computer assistant realized 'self' (perhaps): Annana (voiced by Elise Durant) has failed to awaken her. Annana is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) personality with all knowledge who is at Monica's beckon call. 

Somewhat shaky technical issues parallel the acting glitches in an attempt to involve the audience to participate with sort of Call & Response.   Rebel  (Charrell Mack) is discovered trapped inside a 'pod' for reasons later to be revealed. After Rebel establishes contact with the audience, she has someone actually call Dr. Traver in an attempt to obtain the code for Rebel to escape from her pod. (It's 6252774)  The over all  premise, solipsystic in nature (I had to look it up, you might, too), is a fascinating notion: to spend time in suspended animation and essentially dream your troubles away.  The incredibly slow evolution of the argument of the play, combined with a cast that may have ditched their elocution class a time or two, makes this an evening too long and hesitant to be fully enjoyed.. UNLESS.. you have the patience to cull the kernels of the notion from the old nursury round 

"Row Row Row Your boat 

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily merrily

Life is but a dream.. (repeat.. again and again)"

Can you dig it?

"Ascension" was developed in the time of dampanic. The technical apsect, though rocky in tonight's performance are impressive.  Projections, especially the graphics for the AI genius Ananna, have great potential. 

The Echo literally tries stuff. Standing applause for this experiment, that with time, the intended sense of other worldliness may emerge. Have you heard of the 'Second Sun?' A huge problem is the pace and actors failure to enunciate to bring their characters fully to life.  Audience participation slows things.   Some stage waits are interminable.

Elio Oliver's detailed tech, with Pod Design by Bill Voorhees; sound by Black Music the Avatar!! drive  Watson's slowly paced vision from presentation to  confusion to lucidity. This adventure will leave the audience either transformed or thoroughly confused as they exit into the cool October evening.  It's a trip.

Sami Cavestani plays Evan. Steve Hofvendahl is Raithmore. Only Leandro Cano as The Caretaker rises to the ocassion with not so veiled threats from time to time. And, just what time is it, anyway? Are we only just watching a play? What year is it? Really??

ASCENSION 

by D.G Watson

Directed by Ahmed Best

Echo Theatre

Atwater Vilage Theatre 

3269 Casitas Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Performances: Oct. 6 – Nov. 18
Tuesdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 5 (preview), Oct. 12, Oct. 26, Nov. 2, Nov. 9, Nov. 16 (dark Oct. 19)
Wednesdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 6 (Opening Night), Oct. 13, Oct. 27, Nov. 3, Nov. 10, Nov. 17 (dark Oct. 20)
Thursdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18 (dark Oct. 21)

Tickets and information:
310-307-3753    www.EchoTheaterCompany.com