|Andrew Thacher / photo credit Jill Carol
About fifty years ago when New Age was sort of New.. Richard Bach, a pilot who wrote books and a writer who flew airplanes came on the scene with a little allegory that echoed the philosophy of a teacher by the name of Richard Alpert, whom you may remember as Ram Dass. The Ram Dass book "Be Here Now" is in it’s umpteenth printing and Bach’s "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" shows up on a Google search as having sold at least 40 million copies.
My personal connection to Richard Bach prompted me to blatantly ask to review this current production of the one person show: "Jonathan Livingstonj Seagull: A Solo Flight".
Andrew Thacher is the solo. His adaptation of Bach's book is the text with spectacular projections in the teeny tiny space that is adjacent to the Open Fist and Echo Theatres at the Atwater Village Theatre Complex.
For those who may have never heard of Jonathan, it is one of those little books with big print and a story that... according to Richard Bach, came to him in two parts. The first part, I remember him saying, was when he lived in Long Beach and was out for a walk. Behind him.. over his left shoulder. or was it his right? He distinctly heard a voice say "Jonathan Livingston Seagull." Turning to find no one there.. the idea of an allegory of freedom came to him with the voice of a bird as the narrator. He immediately wrote the first half. I don't recall how long it took Bach to find the end of the piece. It was a while..
Bach was a pilot. One of those guys who owned airplanes and knew about flying from a personal perspective. The notion of freedom in flight was his beacon. "Stranger to the Ground (1963)" was his first book published when he was 27. Then "Biplane" in 1966.. with some other work coming along, turning on flight and freedom.
The big winner was "JLS" which put Bach on the map. It's simple road to Freedom became a hit.
Andrew Thacher is an actor / artist whose fourteen year journey has finally landed him in one of the little spaces in Atwater with some excellent tech to enhance what is essentially a dramatic reading of Richard Bach's bird story.
There is a quality to the story that speaks for itself: the character who doesn't see the world the way the world seems to insist that he must see it and be in it and act in it and do what he's told. Makes sense that a pilot who had ideas about life, maybe under the influence of the Sixties? would find a metaphor in a young seagull who wanted to really... Really.. fly.
What Thacher has done in his fourteen year love affair with this story is to internalize the message and on a flyer.. so to speak.. has mounted the show on a shoestring, though the tech credits and especially the video projections (and one really cool special effect) bring the audience into the heart of the message: Go beyond your limits. Find love. Respect those who condemn you and find a way to freedom.
Speculation might lead someone to see the Christ story here.. the Troublemaker who is condemned by society. Or the Siddhartha story .. in a way.. a taste of Tao and Buddhist reincarnation? All shared with a genuine and present joy by Mr. Thacher in a way that I am sure Richard Bach would find charming.
It's rare for me to rave or gush these days. Getting back into an audience is such a friggin' pleasure. Being able to share a show like this with a friend was special, but the really special part is that to be told this story in such a clear and personal way enhances it beyond the pleasure of finding the book again. The original book had some cool photos of real live seagulls. Personifying the characters like Sullivan and Fletcher and Chang (sp?) comes easily for Thacher. The natural flow and a simple change of posture and voice is what all actors do to bring their characters to life.This guy is so subtle that each individual character bubbles up effortlessly.. There's just no pressure. The presence of the actor barely shifts. The story being told just happens.
I am loving writing this review. My personal connetion to the author is part of it, a moment long ago that I recall with great pleasure.. but more than this, I want for audiences who may never have heard of Bach or Jonathan, to come to Atwater and support this play.
It's kind of like being in a public place and seeing a beautiful sunset or a cloud formation and turning to a complete stranger with the irresistible need to just say, "Would ya look at that! Isn't that beautiful??"
Andrew Thacher's work is superb.. and super.. and inching toward the sublime..but let's not get carried away.
We live in the land of doubt these days with lots to piss and moan about. An hour.. a little more.. on a pleasant evening with a friend may not change your life, but the allegory that Thacher shares with us is certainly food for thought.
Please see this show. The friends and friends of friends have showed up.. as they should. Now is the time for an audience beyond that circle to come to see what devotion to hard work and a genuine love for the subject matter can do.
JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL:
A SOLO FLIGHT
based on the book by Richard Bach
Performed by Andrew Thacher
Directed by Paul Millet
Atwater Village Theatre Complex
Los Angeles, California 90039
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8PM
Sunday at 2PM
Closing March 27, 2002
Tickets and information: