Have you ever been involved in a conversation that was so intense, so definitive, and so funny that you wish someone had been taking notes?
Fortunately, someone did when two 40-something men who had been friends since freshman year in college got together over coffee for the first time in four years. And the range of subjects that they got intense about was both noteworthy and hilarious.
Allen Barton has written a deceptively simple play: “Years to the Day,” now having its world premiere at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. The story is about friendship between two men: Dan (Michael Yavnieli), full of anger and angst, and Jeff (Jeff LeBeau), whose opinions are diametrically opposed to Dan’s on just about everything. They have a most contentious friendship.
They start out arguing about the relative merits of their respective “awesome phones” and the usefulness of social media. Says Jeff, “Better four years of text and social media than four years of nothing.” To which Dan replies, “Perhaps if people would insist on meeting in person, and not do all the online avatar bulls**t, the in-person would happen more often.”
Likening it to the question of the chicken and the egg, Jeff asks, “Which came first, loneliness or text?”
After further discussion, the men segue into a conversation about “the latest film.” Dan hated it; Jeff saw it twice. “Actress Du Jour was extraordinary in that film,” he says. Then, after Dan condemns the film in the most vitriolic way, Jeff offers his critique: “I thought it was a work of art. I thought it was provocative, I thought it was original, I was drawn in, I cared. I cared what happened and the hallucinations were I thought integral to the story of the film. I thought the political commentary was spot-on. Acting top notch. The flow, the pacing. I thought she did a bang-up job of it. I think it deserves all the accolades it can get.”
You can’t get a critique much better than that.
Eventually the men leave off arguing about trivia and get to the hard-core experiences of their lives. Dan is morose because at 43 he feels he is about to die. “I’ve turned the corner,” he says. “I’m on the downhill slope.”
He mourns that he’s middle aged, but Jeff tells him that 50 is middle age. “And 50 is the new 40, so you’re not middle-aged until 60.”
A series of unexpected confidences and intimate secrets follow. Jeff talks about his marriage; Dan talks about his parents. Touching moments.
And then it’s back to the arguments about politics, the elections, and the fact that Dan had voted for the woman whom Jeff calls “a ridiculous and insubstantial homophobic nincompoop.”
“Yes,” Dan replies, “but I don’t need a brain in my president. All I needed from her was her big fat ‘no’ to more spending.”
And so it goes. The men are deadly serious. They never smile, but their dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny and their timing is impeccable. Director Joel Polis has managed to keep things lively in a space that contains only a table and two chairs, two men, and a lot of talk.
You’ll love it. I did.
“Years to the Day” will continue at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robertson Blvd. in Beverly Hills, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through May 12. For reservations, call (702) 582-8587 or visit online at www.ktctickets.com.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.