Reviewed by Paul Birchall
IAMA Theatre Company
Through November 19
Playwright Christian Durso’s intimate but thematically wide-ranging drama probes issues of personal guilt. Does responsibility to one’s past ever have an end date? When can one’s past actions be forgiven and what must be done to achieve that forgiveness?
Comprised of a series of monologues by two characters, a father and a son — and then a final longer sequence between them – the play’s strikingly simple structure belies its depth and the complexity of the issues explored.
Middle-aged Raymond (James Eckhouse) is first presented to us as a jaunty, gruff and good-humored fellow living alone in a tiny house in the Owens Valley. It’s brutally clear early on that he’s on the run from something terrible in his past. As his story unspools, Raymond reveals that everything in his life has been framed by the one terrible thing he did: During a family squabble, he capriciously swerved into traffic, causing a car pile-up behind him. Although he was cleared of criminal culpability, Raymond has been haunted by the consequences of his action. His marriage shattered, and his children have struggled with emotional issues ever since.
Out of the blue, Raymond’s now middle-aged son Jamie (Graham Sibley), shows up on dad’s doorstep. Ever since the crash, Jamie has eked out a life of his own, but has been undercut by anger issues that have manifested as moments of pure rage. After a tragic incident involving Jamie’s own son, he seeks out Raymond, blaming him for the mess of his own life.
Featuring monologues that juxtapose flashes of deep angst with bits of small talk about cars or weather, Durso’s writing suggests manly men attempting to compensate for their vulnerability. This is a world in which masculine bravado struggles to overtake emotional frailty and sorrow. The characters are not immediately likable, but do remain recognizable as folks trying to muddle through modern life while shouldering mythic amounts of grief.
Director Eli Gonda stages the monologues with a mostly unintrusive hand, letting the disturbing subject matter speak for itself. During the play’s later scenes, when the two men confront each other, the subtext crackles, particularly during sequences in which the father and son try to overcome their awkwardness and reach out to each other — only to discover that, really, they don’t actually like each other very much. With a heartiness that hints at a desire to erase the bad things from his past, Eckhouse, is compelling — and so is Sibley, wonderfully expressive as Raymond’s wounded son.
Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood; In rep; through November 19; visit website for performance dates. https://iamatheatre.secure.force.com/ticket Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.