Out of the Blue, a CurtainUp Los Angeles review CurtainUp

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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Out of the Blue

By David Avery

Die now and pay later; pay now and die in a minute; pay and die now, and follow me.” — Antonio (the Angel of Death) to Gary as they prepare to go to Hell

L to R: Hugh Dane, Tina Preston, Lee Kissman
L to R: Hugh Dane, Tina Preston, Lee Kissman
(Photo: Neil A. France)
Out of the Blue is Murray Mednick’s fourth installment of his "Gary Cycle" of plays (Tirade for Three, Gary’s Walk and Girl on a Bed being the first three). Gary (played this time around by Lee Kissman) is an actor in Los Angles who has had his share of ups and downs. He is chronically out of work (due to his inability to "compromise"), has been married and divorced twice, and has lost a son to drug violence. He also has mental problems that have lead him to addiction and homelessness. The cycle has been fairly rough on Gary.

We find Gary leaving his environs and traveling to New Orleans to visit his mother (Mama Bean played by Tina Preston) and step-father (Daddy-O played by Hugh Dane). Various clues indicate that the action occurs shortly after hurricane Katrina hit the city. Mama Bean is hooked up to life-support and requests that Gary "pull the plug" so that she can die peacefully. This sends him into an existential musing that incorporates several people from his past, including his dead son and ex-wives.

Unlike the first three of the cycle Out of the Blue has absurdist elements rather than straight narrative. While the previous plays centered mainly on Gary’s real life and experiences —though that's not to say that the series didn't have elements of magical realism. As someone who has seen the whole cycle I’m not sure the overall story being presented benefits from the change in tone.

One of the main problems is the change in Gary's nature. Though he was a troubled, difficult, and selfish character he still evoked sympathy (both from the weight of the character and the strength of the performance). Kissman’s Gary acts as a comic foil for the other characters on stage and consequently seems a muddled old man (probably because he has stopped taking his medication).

With Gary so much on the sidelines, most of the play's ideas are put into the mouth of his stepfather. And so it's Gary who is led down into Hell, it's Daddy-O who puts the trip into perspective for him. Gary’s psychiatrist Dr. Jones (Gray Palmer) also appears to act as a doubt inflicting anti-father.

As in the initial three plays, two chorus members comment on the action, and at times assume roles for Gary to interact with. This now comes off as a bit too flippant and gimmicky.

One of the joys of the first three plays was uncovering the story slowly, play by play. For those uninitiated to the Gary Cycle, Out of The Blue might be a bit confusing — too much of a quick rehash of the major plot points of the first three plays, minus the emotional relevance.

There is some good set design, with Mama Bean perched above all the action in a chair that simultaneously depicts a hospital bed, an electric chair, and mad scientist experiment. She and Daddy-O occupy this position for most of the play, and comment randomly on the actions of the other players, sometimes finishing they’re sentences and interjecting words into their speeches. This mirrors their positions in Gary’s mind, as almost supernatural.

Perhaps the title of the play was inspired by the abrupt tonal shift away from a more serious endeavor. Hopefully, the next episode can be brought back into a more realistic frame
For a review of the first three plays in the Gary Cycle, see this link.

Playwright: Murray Mednick
Director: Guy Zimmerman
Cast: Mark Adair-Rios (Antonio/Chauncey), Hugh Dane (Daddy O), Mary C. Greening (Chorus/Gloria), Any Hopper (Dan), Lee Kissman (Gary), Niamh McCormally (Laura), Gray Palmer (Chorus/Dr. Jones), Tina Preston (Mama Bean)
Scenic Design: Jeffrey Atherton, Jason Adams, Alicia Hoge
Lighting Design: Dan Reed
Costume Design: Ann Closs-Farley
Sound Design: Don Preston
Running Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, no intermission
Running Dates: 10/13/06 through 11/4/06, Friday/Saturdays @8pm, Sundays @ 7pm
Where: The Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea, Los Angeles, CA 90036 323-933-6944
Tickets $20
Reviewed by David Avery on 10/14/06.

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