#HFF19, ‘Saving Cain’, reviewed

Gia On The Move, Tracey Paleo, theater reviews, Hollywood Fringe Festival, Saving Cain

Reviewed by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move

“and nothing nothing nothin nothin gonna save us now”

Award-winning playwright Aaron Kozak is debuting a full-length script as a world premiere at the Hollywood Fringe 2019, his first in 5 years, and it’s a heavy one. Saving Cain is painfully tragic and not so neat a sewer-upper. Semi-happy endings come at a price. Because God really can’t do all the work.

Kozak tackles the blind-side, out-of-touch perspective of a far-right, Pentecostal mother raising a son as a single parent.  Poor, less educated than she should be, abusively ‘helicopter’ and woefully misguided, her control is absolutely detrimental to her son who is determined to defy her self-righteousness in every possible way.  Mom is constantly running interference with her son’s friendships, approved classes, extracurricular activities of any sort – even his sports. It’s a nightmare that any normal kid would rebel against.  And, of course, in such a highly typical outcome, the son is eventually taken by drug and alcohol addiction which not only changes the course of both their lives but forces her to reveal her biggest secret.  And it’s a multi-layered shocking one that is hopeful and bitter at the same time. Mom can’t save her son.  That’s a choice he alone has to make. But she can save herself.

With all of the beautiful writing and deeply praiseworthy acting, there often feels like something is missing in the script.  The set up is meticulously detailed from the characters and relationships in what feels like the seeming first act of the 95 minutes, without intermission play. But when the son finally leaves home, there is a gaping hole in the timeline and the further development of the mother/son relationship over the course of ten years that he has been living in New York City.

It’s the only real issue I had with this show though. The rest is absolutely stunning especially the performances by lead actress Leah Verrill (mom) and son Lenny Hernandez. And the finale is truly transformational.


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