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Leon Russom and French Stewart in Padraic Duffy's "Past Time" (photo by Jessica Sherman Photography)
Leon Russom and French Stewart in Padraic Duffy’s “Past Time” (photo by Jessica Sherman Photography)

Past Time

Reviewed by Paul Birchall
Sacred Fools Theatre Company/ Sacred Fools Main Stage
Through March 26

Padraic Duffy’s rather sweet romantic comedy — the premiere offering at Sacred Fools’ new home at the former Elephant Asylum complex — is a good workmanlike calling card to introduce the company’s style and tone to its new neighborhood. If the play ultimately strikes one as slight, it’s salvaged by just enough quirk to make it appealing, along with winsome performances from some of the company’s stalwart mainstays.

Lou (French Stewart) is sublimating his grief over the death of his wife by painting plaster unicorns, which he covers with fanciful colors in the hopes of selling them at a kiosk he’s opening at the local mall. His best buddy, genial James (Leon Russom), is a late middle-aged fellow who has agreed to help Lou out by painting the suckers, in spite of Lou’s near-tyrannical artistic demands.

Meanwhile, James’ dorky grandson Chris (Josh Weber) has a serious crush on attractive Meredith (Julia Griswold), but she can’t even (as the young folks say). Desperate to win the beauty, Chris asks his grandfather to impersonate him on a date, to see if the older man’s maturity and experience will win her over. What could possibly go wrong with such a clever Cyrano-like ruse? And what will happen to Lou’s unicorns?

It’s best not to try to analyze the logic underlying Duffy’s plot, which boils down to a simple meditation on some of the good and bad aspects of romance as one ages. One suspects that there are many wise things to say about this subject — but as in most plays about youth versus maturity, it often seems that a young writer is not able to grasp the true sensation of age, while a more elderly writer never seems to remember what it was like to be young.

Consisting of several whimsical plot threads that never really tie together convincingly, Duffy’s play inevitably comes across as being a little half hearted. There are a lot of promising elements, but just not enough heft to be entirely successful.

That said, director Jeremy Aldridge’s organic staging is good-humored and boasts an appealing gentleness that allows the work to skate a long way on sheer charm. DeAnne Millais’s rumply, unicorn-filled set design has a Midwestern wintry feel to it (though Duffy never really details where the play takes place). Performances are tight and funny, particularly Russom’s increasingly bemused James, French’s sweetly sad and eccentric Lou, and Ruth Silveira, in a beautiful and touching performance as James’s pragmatic, hard-worn wife.
Sacred Fools Main Stage, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m..  through March 26.  (310) 281-8337 or at http://sacredfools.org.  Running time: 100 minutes.

 

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