Tuesday, February 26, 2019

America Adjacent (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

The Skylight Theatre has a reputation for "topical" plays that generally stay away from becoming pure polemics, telling the audience what to do and how to think or feel.
America Adjacent by Boni B. Alvarez follows up on this.  Yes, it decries cruelty and inhumanity--and I hope down to my soul such is not seen as some kind of agenda to stir suspicion--but it offers no solutions, no policies, no proposed legislation, no political candidate.

Instead, the play tells human stories, urging us to feel compassion for our fellows.

Credit:  Ed Krieger
Somewhere near Larchmont Village, five young Filipina women live crammed into a one bedroom condo.  All but one are pregnant, the fifth having already given birth.  It takes a little while to figure out who these ladies are and why they are there.

Quite simply, all came to the United States to give birth, in hopes the child would then have the opportunity to come back to America and go to college.

Janelle (Evie Abat) is the rebellious one, who sneaks out and tries to enjoy herself in America.  This is against the rules, and threatens the security of those in the house.  After all, each of them have overstayed their Visas and these days that makes them a target.  We learn of Janelle and the others via Sampaguitta (Samantha Valdellon) who arrives soon, brought by the Administrator (Hazel Lozano)--the daughter of Filipino immigrants who disdains these girls, their situation, probably their babies, but covers it all with the smile of a not-too-successful real estate agent.

Credit:  Ed Krieger
Thus via the newcommer we meet the others:  Paz (Toni Katano) a spoiled brat who keeps complaining.  Aimee (Sandy Valesco) who is deeply religious but has a wicked sense of humor.  Divina (Arianne Villareal) who has her baby and now waits until he has a US passport. Roshelyn (Angela T. Baesa) is a teacher back home, and has her eyes on the prize, a son who will become President.

What follows offers not so much a drama as a slice of life, amid a flurry of minor (and major) dramas as well as comedies.  More than anything else, this glimpse of a half dozen young women allows (maybe insists) we ponder lives so very different from our own.  We Americans like to say we are the best.  Best schools, best economy, best opportunities, the best society.  But does it seem to others we are hording?  How often are we grateful for what we have, rather than fearful someone will take it from us?  Humble before the achievement of generations rather than vain, boastful, unthinking?

Credit:  Ed Krieger
Mind you, this play has not a single American character in it.  Nor do the characters ever discuss America per se, save in wonder at little details.  Some fume that their fellows seem to disparage their own homeland so much, or look down on one another.  But this never crosses the line into preaching.

Just a half dozen young women trying to do the best they can, often from situations they did not choose.  At least two or three of them never chose to come to here.  Circumstances prove frightening, sometimes, and there's more than a hint of real tragedy.  As well as hope.

Just like everyone else.  That is hallmark, not incidentally, of fine acting.  Everyone seems real.  We recognize them as people we know.  Sometimes as ourselves.

Maybe that is the real polemic, though.  To remind us what we should already know.

America Adjacent plays 8:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays, 3pm on Sundays through March 24, 2019 (added performances at 8pm on Mondays, March 4, 11, & 18Skylight Theatre, 1816 ½ North Vermont, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Anna Karenina (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

What startled and delighted me more than anything in the Actors Co-op production of Anna Karenina proved to be the script.  Helen Edmunson's adaptation of Leo Tolskoy's classic felt like a revelation.  Rather than stinting on the various stories and plots of the novel which exist to counter-balance one another (most versions focus on the title character), her play manages to bring in the entire scope of the basic tales of most characters.  This means a sacrifice of many details, many scenes, but it gives the play some of the novel's scope.  Its central conceit is to give equal time to Levin (Joseph Barone) of all people!  Which given he proves the polar opposite of Anna (Eva Abramian) seems both odd yet perfect.  More importantly, in some kind of limbo perhaps outside time in some way, the entire play is presented as Anna and Levin (who meet once near the end of the book) as telling each other their story while in a sense living it.

Credit: Larry Sandez
Honestly I adore this.  It gives both characters someone with whom to speak--not some vague audience member but another character who has their own agenda, who might judge them or in turn react to being judged.  Which does happen.  Indeed, this and the almost reader's theatre approach of shifting times and places, with a fistful of actors portraying hundred of roles if anything reminds me of Peter Shaffer crossed with William Shakespeare.  I was drawn into this world and their situation as I never have with any adaptation of Tolstoy's work before.

The scenic (Stephen Gifford), lighting (Lisa D. Katz), costume (Vicki Conrad), and sound (David B. Marling) designs all worked together very well with an in-the-round setting to immerse us in the world of Anna and Levin, a world so dissatisfying in so very many ways to them both.  Julie Hall's choreography helped as well, sweeping us into the movement which so perfectly captures a sense of social ebbing as well as flowing.

Credit: Larry Sandez
Honestly, the cast didn't quite live up to this wonderful script.  Not quite.  There were individual performances I found excellent--not least Bruce Ladd as Alexei Karenin, who undergoes quite the huge character arc.  Also I found Deborah Marlowe fantastic in her several roles, showing a fantastic range.  The rest of the cast did fine, and let it be noted I felt for every single one them before the play ended.

And in the end, that seems the most important thing.  I just don't think anyone consistently matched the quality of the script, which to my tastes was a very high bar.  But that is very nearly nitpicking.  Michael Worden, Lauren Thompson, Garrett Botts and Ivy Beech all together with the rest (including of course the leads) all did well and told this complex tale of human suffering and desires with truth as well as nuance.

Credit: Larry Sandez
Essentially, Levin is a land-owner of strict morals tortured by a feeling of not belonging, not fitting in.  Worse, he feels fitting in would be morally wrong.  He might be right.  But he remains supremely judgmental, of other as well as himself, and genuinely benevolent even as he wants to scream in frustration at his peasants.  Anna meanwhile is a beautiful young woman of relatively humble beginnings wed to a powerful man many years older.  They have a son, whom she adores.  She loves the city life of St. Petersburg and Moscow, persuades her sister in law to forgive Anna's brother when he commits adultery.  Not, alas, for the first or last time.

Both are unhappy, and both react badly to this fact.  Both, and maybe this echoes in our time with a deep sharpness, ultimately feel trapped by life.  Not living and enjoying it, but enduring the days, seeing something, anything, to give that breathing worth.

Credit: Larry Sandez
And yes, both feel intense loneliness.

Little wonder one thinks the worse of all, while seeking to bury himself in work.  The other finds herself reacting with genuine romantic feelings, suppressed and not-quite-unwelcome passion in defiance of every rule, habit or ideal she has ever known.  One of the few things they agree upon when they do meet is how ugly modern art has become--merely showing the truth, in all its starkness.

Great art does not usually offer answers.  Tolstoy's novel certainly does not, but rather asks profound questions and does not allow any easy answers.  Such was my experience watching this adaptation, which left me deeply moved and haunted by these people, all of them, and I ponder their choices.  Their tragedies.  And their victories.  For that the script and cast and director Heather Chesley deserve a lot of credit.

Anna Karenina plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2:30pm until March 23, 2019 (Saturday matinees at 2:30pm March 2, 16, 23) on  at the Crossley Theatre, 1760 North Gower Street (on the campus of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood), Los Angeles CA.

ZJU's 50 Hour Drive By 2019 (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Each year Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group does a piece of experimental theatre madness called the 50 Hour Drive By.  The idea is that writers get a certain random group of props at the same time, and have a day to write what I call a "short play" with those props (and I believe they know the actors as well).  Cast and director then have roughly one day to put this thing up.  I plays for one weekend, three performances.  In truth I have seen at least one performed again in a different venue.

If this sounds borderline insane, I won't argue.  Probably none of the participants will, either.  The result is frankly zany in the extreme, sometimes moving, nearly always hilarious.

As of this writing, 2019's version has closed.  But to whet your appetite for next year (and to give some clue as to ZJU itself) here is a review:

First up was GEOdorant  written by Juliana Budrek and directed by Roger Weiss, which actually might win some kind of award for one of the strangest concepts ever presented at ZJU.  For the record, that is not a low bar.  Quite the opposite!   Imagine an underground explorer (Zack Zoda) poking around caves beneath the ruins of the very last Walmart, sometime in the latter part of the 21st century.  Here he encounters was seems to be a subterranean tribe of survivors from a great natural disaster, wearing nothing by yellow danger tape.  This already sounds incredibely weird doesn't it?  No, this is the normal part.  He meets a male (Brandon Slezak) and female (Lauren Faulkner), the latter of whom seems to want to mate with him.  But both warn he must flee, flee before the leader (Jonica Patella) shows up, and eventually the masquerade breaks--these are in fact aliens responsible for the earlier catastrophe, sparked by the treatment their Leader received while doing research doing customer service at Walmart.  But--aha!--the explorer knew all that before, had coming hunting these aliens with the only weapon to which they have no defense--men's deodarant!

Blood Moon 2:  Wolf Moon by Matthew Vorce and directed by Jana Wilmer was next.  A kind of guru hippy girl (Michelle Danyn) has led a couple of followers (Steve Alloway, Paige Phillips) to some remote spot in the woods at midnight to view the Blood Moon and feel the powers of the goddess.  She also seems romantically interested in one of them, but that is the least of the agendas at play--including the possible existence of a monster, which becomes less 'possible' and more 'certain' as time goes by.  As a fun twist, the whole story is framed as a scenario enacted via a hologram or something, with Ellen Bienenfield's Narrator freezing the action periodically to let the audience decide what one of the characters will do now.  We elect the most exciting choice of course, resulting--as we are very pointed reminded--in disaster for innocent people.

Straight Confused by John Santo and directed by Denise Devin, gets into a tangle of love and sex and dysfunction as well as misunderstandings, a nice and fractured sex farce.  Carter (Bobby Selsford) is looking forward to introducing his new boyfriend (Christian Sullivan) to his two mothers (Vanessa Cate, Cassie Crandall).  But when said boyfriend shows up, he is eventually deeply distressed to learn his new best friend thinks they are a couple.  And let us be frank here--answering "Yes" to the question "Are you gay?" had a lot to do with that (he does bemoan how poor he is at communication, though, noting he thought the question referred to his disposition, not orientation)!  Stupid boy.  In the fallout from all this, the two mothers get into a spat of epic drama and revelations, most of them kinky and a fair number fairly disgusting.  And because it is a farce, the ending is happy.

Finally Breaking Convention by Jana Wilmer and directed by Liz Lanier, set in a meeting room at some science fiction/fantasy convention, evidently a fairly large one. Ted (Warren Hall) has set up a Gathering Meet Up for Polyamorous Role Players, which is itself food for a lot of hilarity.  A Cat Man (Abel Horwitz) and a female Gollum (Claire Stephens) before the star of an actual (presumably fictional--I did not recognize the character) star of a t.v. show shows up, in her character.  She (Julia Coulter) is evidently a supervillain and claims to have the actual golden glove which allows her to take over people's minds.  She demonstrates that it works, but then reacts with dumb horror these idiots would actually prove THIS susceptible to suggestion.  She berates them.  Humiliates them.  Leaves in an act of supreme contempt for them.  Being true fans and nerds, they turn to each other and celebrate the fact she showed up at all!  Wow, that hit a little close to home!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Airport Encounters: Brace for Impact! (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

I'm not usually a huge fan of what I call "very short plays" i.e. about ten minutes long.  This stems from my experience that they usually don't feel finished.  However, the most successful of these tend to be imaginative, fun skits with equal parts humor and compassion.  Which turns out an excellent description of Neo Ensenble Theatre's Airport Encounters: Brace for Impact!

Another 'trick' to make a collection of these work is having a similar theme or element.  In this case, every single story takes place in the waiting room of an airport.

Ordained by Mark Harvey Levine and directed by June Carryl follows a totally bizarre but ultimately heart-warming encounter between two strangers (Tracy Winters, Jerry Weil) accosted by a young woman (Starina Johnson) who insists they must get married because she is freshly ordained.  Is she just stark raving looney tune?  Or maybe, just maybe an angel?  No way to tell.

I Wish You Had Never Been Born by Scott Mullen, directed by David Bickford proves a wacky coming of age story involving time travel.  A young woman in bizarre clothes (Jennifer Cheung) approaches a lady on her way to Los Angeles (Julie Lippert), begging her not to get on the plane.  She claims to be from the future, and ultimately turns out just wants the lady never to meet her husband to be and thus give birth to the young woman's ex-boyfriend (Jason Paul Evans).

Three Syllables of Shame by Ronn Watson and directed by Richard Pierce seems vastly normal by comparison, less zany but quite moving.  A couple (Spenser Kramber, Sheila Daly) deal with their fears and hopes and random thoughts of becoming parents while trying to come up with terrible, awful names for their future child. 

His Name is Henry by Jessica June Rowe and directed by Matthew Singletary makes for delightful slight of weird life in which someone insists on taking on board a wooden duck who, she claims, is her support animal.  All the characters (well, save Henry himself...itself?) end up vividly alive on stage and was a delight to behold.  Cast consists of Jerrfy Weil, Valerie Gould, Tracy Elliott and Joan Kubicek.

Till Death Do Us Part by Elayn Heilveil and directed by Valerie Gould, is an almost classical romantic farce transformed into a haiku.  A married couple (Connie Monroe, Jason Paul Evans) fresh from the actual wedding are having a fight amid what has turned out to be an even more than dramatic series of events than one would expect.  They are hilarious and very human, while the man who ends up (literally) in the middle of all this (David St. James) after awhile understands what is going on.  So do we, by the end.

My Cellphone Says You're My Soulmate by Scott Mullen, directed by Matthew Singletary okay was a tiny bit predictable by this time in the evening.  A young man has programmed his cellphone to find his soulmate, approaches a young woman in the airport insisting it must be she--although ultimately both suspect maybe the phone means her sister?  So does the sister when she comes back from getting something.  At least at first.

Ninjas by Scott Mullen and directed by Lauren Smerkanich explores an interesting case of a two stalkers who fall in love in high school then finally connect again at their high school reunion.  Which is fairly disturbing in some ways but darkly sweet in others.  Starina Johnson and Tracy Elliott portray the night vision goggle-crossed lovers.

Charlie by Beth Polsky and directed by Joe Ochman proved my favorite (although honestly, they were all very entertaining).  The title character (Anthony Marquez) is a humanoid robot invented by a scientist (David St. James) en route to a robotics conference.  Turns out Charlie has been reprogramming himself to better obey his primary mission, to take care of David.  Who drinks much too much.  And who needs a girlfriend.  Sure enough we soon run across Marcy (Abby Kammeraad-Campbell), another robot with her inventor Violet (Valerie Gould).  What follows is equal parts silly, even ridiculous, but very funny and liberally slathered with kismet.

Airport Encounters: Brace For Impact!  plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm until February 23, 2019 at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd (west of Vine), Hollywood CA 90038.

Two Trains Running (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

For those who don't know, the late playwright August Wilson (his most famous work is probably Fences) created a "century cycle" (also called the "Pittsburgh Cycle") of plays chronicling the African American experience in the 20th century decade by decade.  Two Trains Running takes place in the late 1960s, in a Pittsburgh diner where a group of characters work and/or gather.  More, the diner itself lies in the Hill District, once a flourishing neighborhood, now run-down and in a state of decay.

Yet this remains a time when things are changing.  Segregation had not only been banned by the Supreme Court but was in the process of actually happening.  The Freedom Riders had forced a sometimes violent change, some of them becoming martyrs in the process.  Both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had risen, then fallen.

For the characters, though, they remember and live by both the world of the past and that of the present.  Simultaneously in two states of mind, history and (perhaps most importantly) hope.

Therein lies all the tension and plot of the play, not in one specific character arc.  Sure, Memphis (Montae Russell) seeks to hold on to his property, not parting with it until he gets the price he feels fair--and in that grim, fierce determination we see the anger and humiliation of half a lifetime.  Yeah Sterling (Dorian Missick) is looking for some kind of work, some purpose, some focus in his young life.  True, West (Alex Morris) wants to get a good deal, trying to buy the diner property from Memphis and probably feels he's being generous.

But it really feels like the play has a lot more to do with the so-called secondary characters, starting with Risa (Nija Okoro) who tries to endure and get by in a world that inspires equal and vast amounts of sympathy as well as distrust.  Then there's Holloway (Adolphus Ward) who keeps trying to get other characters to go see a mysterious elderly woman he says is centuries old yet has answers for those willing to play her price--which is to throw twenty dollars into the river.  He succeeds in getting some to do it, and the two who do arguably begin to have some positive changes in their lives.  Wolf (Terrell Tilford) just tries to have a good life as part of a corrupt system, and then just wants to survive when that system bites one of his customers, a customer who doesn't want to take anything lying down.

Yet most important, certainly most poignant, must be Hambone (Ellis E. Williams), a damaged old man still seeking a ham promised him by a local grocer a decade earlier for painting the man's fence.  "I want my ham," is his refrain, said over and over again--echoing characters like Gollum in Lord of the Rings or Dracula's Renfield, the pathetic and broken person who holds on amid injustice, a ruthless world, and mental fog to one specific sliver of hope.  He wants his ham.  He earned it.

I must point out one of my favorite moments, when Halloway says maybe Hambone is the wiser than the rest.  After all, when offered a chicken instead most of us would take it, right?  But that chicken would taste bitter.  That chicken and every piece of chicken for the rest of days.

Maybe he is right.  Maybe wiser.  And maybe mad.  Because hope can be seen as mad in this world.  Yet without it, without that surrender to hope, how else can the world change?  Even a little bit?

When I look at this play, that is what I come away with.  Hope in all its terrible sweetness, a siren voice which brings disappointment even heartbreak, yet not always.  As addictive as a drug, save this drug sometimes turns out to be medicine.  Actually, that was what drugs were invented as, right?  At play's end, I myself feel so much hope for all these people--and most of all maybe for Risa, whose backstory we never learn yet by the power of words and performance and staging we feel as wildly real.

Two Trains Running plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm as well as Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm through March 3, 2019 at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue (between Fairfax and LeBrea) LA CA 90046.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Too Heavy for Your Pocket (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Brief history lesson.  Well, mini-lesson.

Theatre emerged from religion.  In Ancient Greece especially it arose enshrined around worship of the gods, around what we these days call "myth" but in later centuries dubbed "religious stories."  As far as Europe and its colonies go, what we think of as theatre started as morality plays and re-enactments of stories from the Bible or of various saints.  While some might call that an entertaining way of spreading basic theology, more fundamentally it worked as a version of the Sermon on the Mount, of the parables told by Jesus, of making stories "come alive" in the same way the sacrament is recreating the Last Supper.

So theatre was and remains a temple, a church, some kind of holy ground.

Walking into the theatre to see Too Heavy for Your Pocket by Jireh Breon Holder felt very much like entering a church of some different but vaguely familiar denomination.  With the audience on three sides, viewing what appeared to be a rural kitchen complete with dirt floor, I sat in the dark waiting for a ceremony to begin, a ritual showing some truth.

I got exactly that.

Credit:   Matt Kamimura
Four people.  Two men.  Two women.  In rural Tennessee sometime in the 1960s, when the Freedom Riders stood up and walked and traveled to demand the justice which American law promised yet so very rarely delivered.  Bozie (Derek Jackson) is a very bright young man, married to the fierce and passionate Evelyn (Jaquita Ta'le).  Their best friends, whose kitchen we see, are Tony (Shane Liburd) and his wife Sally (Kacie Rogers).  In many ways their story is that of any four people with individual issues, past mistakes and future ones, with shared hopes as well as fears, plus unshared ones that lead to conflict.

But like all really fine drama, their story also proves deeply specific, individual, unique--yet we recognize those stories.  Hence the paradox of myth and faith.

Credit:   Matt Kamimura
Bozie, who seems our hero, clearly plays the role of clown, and his friends enjoy it.  Truth to tell, they all have wonderful senses of humor.  Yet there's an edge, one we see first in Bozie.  Even as they celebrate his acceptance into college, he has a brief explosion of rage amid his own pride.  What lies behind it?

More, what lies behind that same rage that one by one they all begin to show.  Something deeper than mere poverty, or life's usual struggles.  Tony has been unfaithful to his wife but turned himself around.  Evelyn still feels the searing loss of a pregnancy that ended in a still birth.  Sally holds onto her faith as if it were a life preserver, and after a time it becomes clear she's been clutching at it for a long, long time.

Everything erupts when Bozie mades a decision, one his friends think irresponsible to the point of madness.  He decides to join the Freedom Riders.  Education it seems has made him feel the bite of prejudice all the more sharply, not least seeing the alien world of college.

Credit:   Matt Kamimura
In that place, he gazes upon himself, and wants more that an adequate, even successful and happy life.  He wants his life to mean something. 

His struggle is secular, but to me he seemed to be called.  Little wonder his family and friends fear for him.  Is this not the way of the martyr?  Of the human sacrifice, walking into the lion's den? 

Evelyn more than any other feels betrayed, refusing to speak with her husband or even reveal she is again pregnant.  She will not answer the phone lest it be him.  Events prove her fears justified, as Bozie ends up in jail, tortured and abused.  Fallout from his leaving continues, not least as Evelyn seeks to deal with her terror and feelings of desertion.  Sally tries to support her, while dealing with a husband who is definitely keeping secrets from his wife, then offering some emotional support for Bozie who writes to her just to have someone to talk to--and of course Evelyn jumps to the wrong conclusion when she finds out.

Credit:   Matt Kamimura
But what I notice, the more I think on the play, was how increasingly that rural kitchen become other locations from the start of the play.  It begins itself, then becomes a bus, a prison, a nightclub, even an outdoor privy and eventually what I think might be some woods.  Each of the four are pushed and pushed and pushed.  No one thing is too hard.  Every single person seems a good person, one trying to do what they can.

Yet the world is bigger than them.  And it demands too much sometimes.  It demands far too much as it happens.  Which is why maybe some are called as Bozie was--and some do become martyrs to the cause.

For the record, Bozie does not.  He is willing in the end, but does not have to.  Someone else becomes a martyr, someone who bore even more.  After all, Bozie fought back.  Others were able to do...well, something.  But Sally, she endured more than life should be.  Because what breaks her is not even her husband's foolish secret-keeping, or Evelyn's pain-driven pride.  It is the lack of dignity.  That whittles you down.  Weighs you down.  Life has enough burdens already, is hard enough.

Sometimes it becomes too heavy, though.  That is the ultimate, most piercing and intimate thing about things like racism of all stripes in all of its ugly-to-behold forms.  It just gets too heavy for a human soul.

That is what makes theatre sacred.  This cast, this writer, this director (Michael A. Shepperd) get that.  Not only truth, but truth than uncovers the soul of the individual, which makes us recognize ourselves in someone else.

Too Heavy For Your Pocket plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 7pm until March 2, 2019 at the Broadwater Black Box, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd (west of Vine), Hollywood CA 90038.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The P.O.W. and the Girl (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Honestly this title made me think of a story.  Some German or Italian POW in the United States who gets to know some local girl, "girl" as in under 21 years old or maybe under 18, and some kind of experience they share together, an insight into the nature of the world.

I got nearly all of that wrong.

The P.O.W. and the Girl in fact proved a semi-autobiographical tale by playwright Katrina Wood about her relationship with her grandfather, who had been a Japanese POW.  To be sure (she told me in a chat after the show) events are not simply a recreation of exactly what happened.  But there's a lot there almost word for word.

The Girl is Sarah (Samantha Mallory) of the title is going to school in London, hoping to become a paramedic and living with her Grandfather Johnny (Chas Mitchell) who can seen as...well irascible.  Or a mean old coot who snarls at people and complains pretty much without stop.  He puts down his granddaughter, sneers at pretty much everything she says or does, but in flashbacks (both theatrical and psychological) some of what he endured comes out.  Clearly the man still has PTSD, which only began to be truly understood around the period of the play, the 1980s.

Credit:  Mick Wood
Sarah frankly feels trapped in her life, trying to make it out alive, seeing herself a prisoner.  One of many little ironies scattered throughout.  Later she meets Paul (Adrian Burke), a young man of similar tastes and with a kind-hearted streak.  Each, it proves, feels exactly the same way about their own lives.  Trapped.  Imprisoned.   Subject to the issues of a parental figure who doesn't seem to care.

Knowing but not knowing this, sensing it without realizing anything, maybe that is why they find each other.

Now there's a lot good to say about this play and its production.  The bottom line is that I felt moved by events portrayed.  The central characters--Sarah, Johnny and Paul--ultimately grabbed my attention and sympathy.  Rather than wishing them well in the abstract, I genuinely wanted the best for them.  For healing.  For happiness.  For peace and hope. 

Credit:  Mick Wood
I have some issues here and there.  The start (this is so often a problem) offers context but does not compel.  That come later.  Johnny's years as a POW aren't really explored much, so seem out of balance with the quiet, relentless agony felt by Sarah.  Supporting characters in the play hardly seem to exist save as cardboard cutouts--played by Lucas Helmersson, Jeffrey Gibson, and Natalia Bilbao (who does a lot with very little).

But what stands out remains my emotional reaction.  I'm too jaded to be satisfied by a play that goes through the motions or performances that don't ultimately feel like human beings talking, reacting, deciding.  Sarah, Paul and Johnny ended up a trio who touched my heart.  What happens with, to and by them by play's end feels achieved.  More it reminds us there's more to life than tragedy or regret, even if we are very lucky not to end up with lots of both. 

The P.O.W. and the Girl plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm until February 16, 2019 at the Sherry Theatre 11052 Magnolia Blvd (west of Lankershim) North Hollywood CA 91601.