For dedicated fans and practitioners of Theatre with a capital "T" ... Lucas Hnath (nayth) has a take on the practice of writing and performing works for the stage unlike any other playwright in recent memory. The World Premiere of his "Dana H" at the Kirk Douglas a couple of years ago was so enticing and wonderful, that to call this guy a genius.. well..from what I've seen and read, he's right up there with Beckett. My bias tends to lean toward plays and theatre companies who develop their own material and/or invite playwrights like Hnath to work with them to make the stage come alive with the unexpected.
|Cory Washington, Brittney Bertier,
Thomas Piper and Kevin Ashworth
Photo by Jenny Graham
Certainly, just the memorization of the title of this show is a challenge and when we think of the almost literal sainthood that has been bestowed on Uncle Walt, this imagined discussion, mostly between Walt Disney, (in a tour de force presentation, Kevin Ashworth) and his brother, Roy (a perfect foil with a bandage # on his head from where an Oscar grazed him, Thomas Piper) , is filled with healthy jerks and starts. That Hnath employs marks of elipses in his scripts to sustain the pace he desires is evident here.
We are at a table read. The actors are actors playing characters with scripts aided by a few projections. When Ron Miller (Cory Washington) and Diane Disney Miller (Brittney Bertier) take stage, we open into a sort of dance studio with floor to ceiling mirrors that expands the scope of this ego fest: all conducted by Walt.
What the heck is really going on? Diane Disney Miller's husband, poor Ron Miller gets some rough treatment as Walt rides roughshod over Ron's hope to become a true part of the Disney family.
Walt's perfect reading of the camera moves (Cut: on Walt, close on Walt, ON WALT) in the screenplay rambles in such a way as to peek inside the mind of a guy whose take on life is to Take Life and do with it as he pleases, even to the end of time.. as we know it. Or? Live forever! The cryogenics deal is here, too.
Hnath's dissembling structure becomes a new languge that .. like learning Pig Latin .. begins to make sense.
For those not familiar with the structure of a screenplay.. this table read moves a pace and we see an imagined version of the personality whose name is familiar to very single person on the planet who has electricity and maybe some folks who don't The performances are all solid: professional. A few props factor in to add slightly to a cartoony aspect of the show. Walt's vodka bottles bear "XXX" brand. Swilling pills and vodka may have been what might have really happened. The animators strike and a nature film about lemmings come sideways from real life, but mostly, this is Hnath's imagined take on the ego of one of the world's most revered filmmakers / entrepreneurs and scalliwags in modern history.
Peter Richards' direction is flawless. It's a terrific play. Wonderful stuff..
Another of Hnath's plays, "A Doll's House: Part 2" will go up at the ICT in Long Beach in a couple of weeks. I can't wait. Meanwhile.. see this one.
A PUBLIC READING OF AN UNPRODUCED SCREENPLAY ABOUT THE DEATH OF WALT DISNEY by Lucas Hnath
Presented by Working Barn Productions
Directed by Peter Richards
Preview: March 25
Performances: March 26 – May 1:
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 25 (preview), April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22, April 29
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 26 (Opening Night), April 2, April 9, April 16, April 23, April 30
• Sundays at 2 p.m.: March 27, April 3, April 10, April 17, April 24, May 1
2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles CA 90025
On site : Five bucks
Street parking is a little dicey but available.
Tickets and information: