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LETTERS TO EDITOR
|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Broken Hearts: A B.H. Mystery
by Jack Holland
Broken Hearts is the culmination of Cornerstone’s two and a half year theater residency in four Los Angeles area communities with the initials B.H. These communities represent the wide range of cultural and socioeconomic diversity that is Los Angeles. Cornerstone Theatre Company staged new adaptations of plays in each residency. These productions involved more than 500 residents of all four neighborhoods. Playwright Lisa Loomer successfully engaged in an extensive collaborative process with the participants in order to craft a mystery that traces the history of a wedding ring lost in 1929 and resurfacing in 1999.
Since Broken Hearts: A B.H. Mystery is about Los Angeles -- not Los Angeles the city but Los Angeles the people -- the LATC in the heart of downtown Los Angeles is a fitting venue . The production is entertainingly done in a light film noir style. Part mystery, part history lesson and part human interest story it touches on significant events such as the Watts riots, the more recent L.A. riots (or uprising, depending on your perspective), the zoot suit riots and the Japanese internments during World War Two. These events are dramatically put into the context of everyday life. Private and public dramas are effectively blended. Individuals change and communities are formed.
All is not serious though. A large dose of humor is interspersed throughout. The lighter moments serve as effective, non-preachy commentary on the experience of living in Los Angeles in 1999.
Directed by Cornerstone’s artistic director Bill Rauch, this production is staged with a precision that at keeps the action moving and the audience entertained. Mr. Rauch makes imaginative use of limited props. Two particularly memorable examples are a scene on a bus and a fight scene. The first utilizes a few hard back chairs and a short metal tube. The fight scene is done in the slow motion style of a Hong Kong action movie. (Mr. Rauch has previously worked at Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he won community and critical praise for Steelbound, an adaptation of Prometheus Bound produced with former steelworkers and their families).
Playwright Lisa Loomer has crafted a fine piece of work that threads together and reveals the common humanity of very diverse people. She has an ear for distinct dialogue and a great sense of fun.
The twenty eight member cast includes L.A. residents from varying backgrounds ranging from children to seniors. These actors work alongside Cornerstone’s ensemble: Peter Howard, Shishir Kurup, Page Leong, Armando Molina and Christopher Liam Moore.
Armando Molina plays the lead, a private detective who takes on the task of tracing the history of the mysterious ring. He skillfully captures the comic and tragic aspects of his character. His narration between and within scenes propels actors and audience through the complex story with great ease.
Michael Abel's evocative music performed by a six piece band, Lynn Jeffries' functional and fun set and Dori Quan's costumes which span 70 years, Broken Hearts: A B.H. Mystery is entertaining and enlightening. Too bad it won't be around longer.
Another Loomer play, Expecting Isabel is scheduled to have its West Coast premiere at the Mark Taper Forum next year. For a CurtainUp' review of that play during its DC run go here
Editor's Note: It should be noted that tickets are affordably priced at $8-$10, and for those who can't spare that much, no one turned away for lack of funds.