The Gary Plays – PART 3: DaddyO Dies Well & Charles’ Story
Reviewed by Martin Hernandez
The Open Fist Theatre Company at the Atwater Village Theatre
Extend through June 10
Playwright Murray Mednick’s The Gary Plays are a set of six one-act works that depict the travails of unemployed actor Gary Bean following the random killing of his adult child. While Mednick’s plays, which lean towards abstruse, non-linear and lyrically dense storytelling, aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, they can also be intriguing, heartbreaking and uplifting, and for the most part this was the case with the two I attended.
DaddyO Dies Well is a recondite tale in which Gary (Kelly Van Kirk), plagued by guilt since his son’s death, is summoned by his dying “hipster” stepfather DaddyO (Roderick Menzies). Sitting king-like on a raised platform, while characters from Gary’s past surround him, the loving DaddyO pontificates on his stepson’s plight and his own mortality, and extends a purgative tea to Gary, who soon engages in dreamlike parlays with the others on stage. Ex-wife Gloria (Laura Richardson) heart-wrenchingly confronts Gary, faulting him for their son’s death, while others — like his deceased mother (Elizabeth Lande) — directly address the audience, thus heightening Gary’s alienation.
More accessible is Charles’ Story, which is set in a ritzy rehab center in Malibu and features a more upbeat Gary (Darrell Larson) now a part time “performance therapist.” He runs into Todd (Norbert Weisser), an alcoholic movie producer from his past, and bonds with Charles (Carl J. Johnson), a milquetoast accountant whose own child has died tragically. Todd masks his vulnerability with cynicism, sparring with his therapy group (Amanda Weier, Laura Liguori and Derek Manson), while also dodging Antonio (Peggy Ann Blow), a mysterious gardener whom he thinks is an assassin out to get him. When a firestorm threatens the center, Todd and Charles each embrace the inferno to burn off their sins, with Charles attempting a bittersweet reconciliation with his reluctant and self-absorbed wife (Barbara Schofield).
Director Guy Zimmerman’s perceptive staging and the ensemble’s timing and dedication to Mednick’s text help to redeem the evening when things do bog down, while Jeff G. Rack’s set and Hana S. Kim’s video projections add an effectively surreal quality to DaddyO’s trailer park and the Malibu rehab.
The Open Fist Theatre Company at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Ave., Los Angeles, 90039; Thurs –Sat., 8 p.m. (Part 1: Tirade for Three & Girl on a Bed, Part 2: Gary’s Walk & Out of the Blue, and Part 3 in repertoire.); Sun., 12 p.m. (Part 1), 3 pm (Part 2) & 7 p.m. (Part 3); extended through June 10. (323) 882-6912 or www.openfist.org. Running Time: varies with the plays; with intermission.