Our Lady of 121st Street. Written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, Directed by Ruman Kazi
Presented by Presented by Victory Bare Bones/Zubber Dust
“The Victory Theatre Really Hits It Right With “On The Money”
“Fantastic Talent, Fantastic Music, Fantastic Message In “Ordinary Days”
It’s Intense, Highly Controversial, And Puts Religious Faith On Trial
“The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” was written by Stephen Adly Gruirgis, a playwright noted for his religious and political themes. He has taken this play to a new level of complexity for theatrical productions. Originally premiering in New York in 2005 and directed by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, this production at the Victory Theatre in Burbank has a very unique style all its own.
Humor Is Annie Abbotts’ Life Is And It’s Really Hard To Give Up!
In this age of creative families, the desire of a single male Irish bisexual with a history of strange liaisons to adopt a Ugandan toddler should not come as a great surprise. Nor should it surprise residents of hip urban communities, anyways, that the man brings the boy back to his Hollywood home, triumphing over Uganda’s bribe-driven bureaucracy in the process.
The story, which took place six years in the past, is recounted in Johnny O’Callaghan’s one-man, one-act autobiographical show “Who’s Your Daddy?”, which is at the Victory Theatre Center (in the Little Victory) through December 18th. “Daddy” plays like a taut, well-written personal essay, with seamless transitions between countries, people, and subjects, droll observations, and quite funny asides. Only in the final few minutes, when O’Callaghan adds detail after detail of his effort to get his then three-year-old son out of Africa, does the narrative display any signs of fatigue.
Along with his other identifiers, O’Callaghan is an actor/writer who we are led to believe has experienced more career disappointments than successes. But his professional challenges are nothing compared to the day he arrives home early to find his live-in boyfriend of two years having sex with twins, a scene graphically depicted in the production. O’Callaghan moves out immediately, taking few possessions with him.
Not long after, he has a chance encounter on Sunset Boulevard with an actress/friend. In the breezy and confident manner of her type, she asks him to accompany her to Uganda, where she is going to film a documentary on an orphanage. The actor says yes: Could there be any better place for a heartbroken man to escape?
At the orphanage, O’Callaghan is surrounded by dozens of children who have either been abandoned or had a parent or parents horribly killed by rebels or government forces. It is here that he draws the same conclusion as stressed-out lawyers and bankers who walk past the destitute in downtown Los Angeles: “My life really isn’t so bad, after all.”
The act of adoption, which drives the show’s second half, is a case of love at first sight. The three-year-old, who will eventually be named “Odin,” emerges from the pack of children to hop on the lap of a startled O’Callaghan, as if the two were already a family. It’s the kind of cute meeting that you would think could only be conceived at a Disney writer’s retreat.
When would-be father and son have a similar bonding experience later, O’Callaghan is left with no choice but to begin adoption proceedings. Since the audience is now invested in this child’s future, it is hoped that O’Callaghan is past his days of hard partying and casual sex and ready to become a responsible father. Perhaps the answer will be provided in “Who’s Your Daddy, Part 2?”
In his performance, O’ Callaghan draws a stark contrast between his X-rated Hollywood lifestyle and his G-rated quest to legally adopt a loving child. We get to know the stud and the dad.
The action takes place on Lucan Melkonian’s sparse stage, decorated in shades of blue and brown, which along with Carol Doehring’s subtle lighting vividly conveys a land of brush and wide-open, dusty space.
“Who’s Your Daddy?” is performed Fridays at 8. Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 4 through December 18th. Tickets range from $24 to $34, and may be purchased by calling 818-841-5422 or going online at www.thevictorytheatrecenter.org. The Victory Theatre is located at 3326 W. Victory Boulevard, Burbank.
Courtesy of www.mydailyfind.com
written & directed by Jon Cellini
through December 3
Webster defines harbor as shelter, refuge... for boats, of course... but the meaning may be extended to include human beings, in regard to harboring - holding onto - feelings, emotions. When Tommy (Matthew Lillard) accuses his ex-wife Jules (Mary Thornton Brown) of "harboring sh-- and never letting go", he places the initial blame for their breakup on her, excusing his own weaknesses and lack of commitment. The connection between Tommy and Jules is but one of the relationships explored in Jon Cellini's engrossing new play Harbor onstage at the Big Victory until December 3.
Jules is seeing Saul (Grinnell Morris), a successful scientist who is crazy about her, but she, for a multitude of reasons, just cannot commit. Then there's Jules' dad, with whom she was quite close (Bob Rumnock; role shared with John C. McLaughlin), who has just passed away. Jules and her sister DeeDee (Luka Lyman) are still grieving, each in her own way. Then there's DeeDee's marriage to loyal Ronnie (P J Marino), which seems the happiest of the lot. There's also Tommy's new wife Christie (Zibby Allen), the complete opposite of Jules in so many ways. She's less sophisticated, to be sure, but warm, caring and easy to get to know and like, as she refuses to hold on to negativity - unlike Jules. Finally there's Justin (Matthew Gardner), Jules' and Tommy's teenage son, trying to deal with his own set of issues as well as to make sense of all the adult turmoil around him. But wait, this is a dramedy, and there are many comic moments to lighten things up.
Cellini has created a very enjoyable evening of theatre in which the main issue is Jules' relationship with Tommy. Despite their divorce, when they come together, sparks fly, both negative and positive. An attraction remains that both must deal with. For Jules who is also dealing with the loss of her father, her father's will - in which Tommy was named inherited owner of his boats, Justin's angst and Saul's moving in on her much too quickly - well, the stress is more than she can bear. There is a great sense of humor within the dialogue, some delightful characterizations, and an overall very realistic approach to the situations that make for a finely tuned play with great potential. My only qualm is that the play begins and ends with Jules. In the opening scene she sees her father before he dies and the closing scene is a fabrication in her mind in which the father and Tommy come together in a peaceful reconciliation. Does this mean that Jules' perspective dominates the entire play? Is it all to be judged subjectively from her viewpoint or is there an objective eye at work here? I see both, but it's not crystal clear if Cellini wants Jules in control of all that comes across, particularly in regard to Tommy's behavior.
Under Cellini's fast-moving direction, the entire cast glows. Brown is engaging from the first scene. She makes Jules real, complex, strong, yet vulnerable. Lillard is an electric presence on stage. He is tall and lanky, and carries himself well, even when he sits and stretches out for comfort. His volatility is intense, yet his tremendous humor makes Tommy's faults seem less affecting than his likability. He's like a big kid who never grew up. As to appealing, all of the actors put humane touches on the characters, making them totally pleasant company. Gardner, especially stands out, making Justin's maturation focused and perceptive.
Harbor's strengths outweigh its flaws, making it simultaneously absorbing and enjoyable to watch. One scene toward the end of Act I in which the whole ensemble play the game Celebrity is laugh-out-loud hilarious, showing without restraint the aggressively competitive nature of each and every player.
Great cast! Go see it through December 3 only!
4 out of 5 stars