Sunday, June 17, 2018

100 Aprils (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Some plays have a specific message.  Others do not.  Either way almost anything other than a comedy (and often even then) the heart of what we experience in theatre remains the human condition, distilled into a concentrated form.

Rogue Machine's 100 Aprils by Leslie Ayvazian (who also plays a role) enacts this more than most.  The plot such as it is (no murder mysteries, here, no cases of falling in love against great odds, etc.) focuses on a family.  Dr. John Saypian (John Perrin Flynn) lies in a hospital bed dying, his body ravaged by drug addiction and his mind by an evil that marred his view of everything at an early age.  No less than an child of Holocaust survivors, his imagination is haunted by the Armenian Genocide that took place during the first World War.  So much so that his imagination begins turning his Turkish born physician  into a Turkish peasant's son, witness to the murder of Saypian's own family.

Almost surprisingly, this never becomes a polemic about the Genocide, or even about evil per se.  Rather, we get a slice of life about what evil can do to those touched even second or third hand.  In the process, though, we see more about those touched than about the evil itself.  Maybe that makes for a moral if you like, or a lesson, or maybe just a possibility this audience member found compelling.

Dr. Saypian's wife Beatrice (Leslie Ayvazian) tries to manage the situation as best she can, her businesslike manner at first seeming a little cold but soon we begin to notice an almost transcendent patience.  Then we see the courage, the heartbreaking insights, the fierce devotion under all that calm.

Their daughter Arlene (Rachel Sorsa) on the other hand looks near broken, desperate to win some kind of attention, approval, affection from a family focused on her father's vast gaping pain.  At times it actually hurts to watch her just look or listen.  Like everyone involved her performance arrests, even fascinates and nearly always moves.

Rounding out the cast is Robertson Dean as the Physician, almost the epitome of someone disinterested (although, honestly, doesn't a physician have to remain to some degree remote, just to maintain sanity?).  This extends to many things, but bleeds interestingly when he is the strangely specific archetype of the Doctor's hallucinations.  Likewise there is the Nurse (Janet Song), as business-like as one can imagine, yet whose veneer wonderfully cracks when Arlene gives her a simple gift in hopes of earning some attention for a bee sting.  Yet somehow the two are profoundly impacted by this.  One can see it.  The facade of professional indifference cracks open.  One hopes the two may become friends.

A simple yet profoundly complicated brew of humanity--hope and fear, love and hate, desperation and resignation--makes 100 Aprils a sharp yet warm and refreshing taste.  Not sour nor sickly sweet and far from bland.  Rather, a melancholy thing to savor and contemplate.

100 Aprils runs Saturdays and Mondays at 8:30pm, Sundays at 3pm, through July 16, 2018 (No performance on Monday June 25) at the Met Theatre, 1089 North Oxford (one block east of Western & Santa Monica Blvd) Los Angeles CA 90029.

No comments: