Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Big Event: Sunny Afternoon (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

This marks the first review in a series, based on a group of interrelated plays by Christian LevatinoSunny Afternoon deals with the police officers and others involved in interrogating Lee Harvey Oswald, the man arrested and charged with the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I feel conflicted about this play.  Very much so.  Because honestly the characters come across as vivid and complex, with a totally believable dynamic (even the very secondary characters who of course don't usually end up with nearly as much nuance) and an almost startling degree of detail.  I believe in these people as written, in their personal stories, how they cope with truly extraordinary circumstances.  More, the plot itself propels itself with a very nice blend of mystery, humor and tension. 

Credit: Alex Hathaway
Along the way let me praise a truly fine cast, who breathe life into their roles with vast skill.  A lot of that seems most obvious with the central characters, Dallas Police Captain Will Fritz (Darrett Sanders) and Oswald (Andy Hirsch).  Their interplay with each other and pretty much the rest of the cast shows exactly what good acting is, as does pretty much everyone else (Jeff Doba, Greg Crafts, Spenser Cantrell, L.Q. Victor, Sammie Wayne, etc.)  Not least is the fact all the main characters and even the vast majority of secondary characters change based on with whom they are speaking.  This simple fact helps lift the whole production into a higher level, as it does whenever actors do so.   It kept my attention riveted, my emotions involved and my mind eager to see what happened next.  I enjoyed watching this play and think most folks would enjoy it in the same way as myself--but hopefully with a caveat.

Credit: Darrett Sanders
So what is my problem?  Historical truth. I actually know a great deal about the JFK assassination.  Physical evidence remains overwhelming, which makes the central premise of the play absurd.  Oswald did indeed kill JFK all by himself, in part because he was exactly the kind of violent loser who goes around killing people to become famous.  This week of all weeks maybe we should remember such people exist.  Sure, Richard III is poor history at best, while Amadeus gives us a wholly false image of real man, and the musical Evita glamorizes an amazingly petty, shallow human being.  Playwrights are not historians.  But as entertaining, dramatic, well-crafted (by all concerned) as this play is, it feeds into paranoid delusion topical at the current time.

So I feel very troubled by this very well made (in every respect) play.  How could I not?  On the other hand, I felt myself enter into the world of the play and become totally immersed in same.  But the essence is a blend of vast historical accuracy coupled with deliberate misinformation, such as Oswald's portrayal as a good ol' boy brainwashed into a truly stupid assassination scenario. 

Hopefully this gives you a good idea what you'll find going in.

Sunny Afternoon plays Fridays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm until November 9, 2018 at the Flight Theatre, upstairs at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood CA 90038.


Leon Shanglebee said...

Thank you for the overall kindness Mr. Blue. I think you missed the point. It's a black comedy. In a lot of ways not unlike Inglorious Basterds. Hitler never died in a movie theatre fire. We all know that, but the film was still worth the price of admission.

Also, side note, you don't know that Oswald acted alone. You may think he did, but you don't know.


Zahir Blue said...

Well, the humor was there but it didn't read as an all-out comedy, rather a play that included humor (very well). To my eyes and ears, to be sure.

Let me be more specific--based on the physical evidence, there is no reason whatsoever to suppose there was anyone else involved in the assassination.