by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
As most of the Los Angeles Intimate Theatre community is now aware, The Lillian Theatre has been sold. After many long years of mainstay dramatic, comedic and musical productions, this cherished location adjacent to The Elephant Theatre and Theatre Asylum and anchoring Hollywood’s Theatre Row, is mounting its last show this month.
For its final farewell, Elephant Theatre Company is presenting a world premiere of The Great Divide by Lyle Kessler, directed by David Fofi.
The Great Divide is a very complicated and convoluted fairy tale that should have been crystal clear but surprisingly missed the mark in many ways from script to execution. Billed as a dark comedy of baseball and brawls, which it momentarily touches upon, it jumps often from one unlikely story to another within this intensely dramatic puzzle about a serially controlling father – The Old Man (Richard Chaves) – and his relationships to his sons Dale (Brandon Bales) and Coleman (Adam Hass Hunter) further tangled by a brother and sister duo Noah (Mark McClain Wilson) and Lane (Kimberly Alexander) who arrive suddenly to claim their due from Coleman who flat-out left them long ago in the middle of the night.
Floating around this more pointedly psychological piece are so many themes and fables that come to mind which are heightened by some interesting elements, The Old Man pretending to croak and rising miraculously from the dead after days on the couch waiting for the seemingly Prodigal Son Coleman, reluctantly returned after 10 years of deliberate distance; Noah’s variety of explanations for the loss of his arm, one more extraordinary than the next; Lane’s ability to hear anything, even the clicks of the combination to Dale’s safe where he keeps his mysterious writing never seen or read by anyone, hidden from the stain of human touch or judgment; and the ghost lullaby that punctures the drama without reason, sung by the boys’ long dead mother.
So much of this play feels disconnected and I daresay that the disconnection is the story itself.
Incredibly, although no one is utterly or exactly fulfilled by this “reunion”, freedom, love, new life, security, admiration, a big happy family, all the players come close. Saying a lie long enough or wanting something bad enough can make a thing become the truth. We are left though, with so much unresolved emotion that this piece feels like a not quite desirable scent hanging in heavy humid air, waiting for a gust of wind to blow it away.
Not for the lack of talent, this show paces quickly and is endowed with some exceptional players. But this is one case where Mr. Kessler’s writing didn’t meet his actors with a better story nor Mr. Fofi the ability to perfectly illuminate it. It’s a toss-up.
Written by Lyle Kessler, Directed by David Fofi, Produced by Bren Coombs and Shannon McManus. Set, Sound, and Lighting Design by Elephant Stageworks.
Starring Kimberly Alexander, Brandon Bales, Richard Chaves, Kate Huffman, Adam Hunter, Forrest Lancaster, and Mark McClain Wilson.
Photo (above) by Bren Coombs: Adam Haas Hunter and Brandon Bales