Tino McGoldrig’s world has shrunk to the size of his cranium. But oh, how much goes on inside the borders of that skull.
“Silent,” the newest theatrical performance piece from Irish actor/playwright Pat Kinevane, is making its West Coast debut at The Odyssey Theatre.
This award-winning dramatic interpretation of a homeless man’s life on the streets of Dublin is not a sappy goody-two-shoes view. It’s a stream of consciousness scream that demands understanding for and a second look at those we otherwise might look down upon.
The stage is dark, mostly bare, except for a few items: small signs leaning against the back wall with words like “wonderful,” “night,” and “all;” a small plastic dish, a water bottle, a wine bottle and a silvery sack. Each will serve a purpose throughout the performance.
With a smoke machine providing the nighttime fog, we feel an immediate chill. The opening is dramatic, including music that could double as a silent film score. Is that a mound of soil we see with feet and hands sticking out as if hastily buried? Or is it a rough blanket under which we see someone sleeping?
Covered by the blanket, Kinevane crawls about and arches his body, moving his hands as expressively as a Hawaiian hula dancer, and finally comes out from beneath it, giving us a hint that while his life is bleak it’s not without some personal magic: shaking out the blanket, it spills a shower of glitter.
He wraps the blanket around his head and body until, with his exaggeratedly dramatic makeup, he resembles silent film superstar Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik. He lets us know that Tino’s name was inspired by Valentino, because his father and grandmother so loved Valentino’s movies and the music of those films.
It’s a black and white world. Tino tells us about his beautiful brother, “Pierce the faggot, the gorgeous version of me,” whose life was a misery because he was gay, and who after multiple (and horrifyingly funny) attempts at suicide, finally succeeds.
Little by little we piece together the story of Tino’s life and how Pierce’s death undoes him. Their father died young and their mother is holy terror, abusive, selfish and vain. Life with her is a misery. For every attempt at suicide, she beats Pierce down even further, compounding the taunts and brutal barbs of the neighbors in their community where homosexuality is not accepted.
Tino’s blanket is later brought vividly to life as his wife Judy, with whom he dances a beautiful waltz, while reminiscing about how his drinking eventually breaks up their marriage and sends him to the streets.
His mental state is deteriorating, and with an ironically humorous ongoing bit about calling the mental health services (“if you are obsessive compulsive, press 1 repeatedly” or “if you have multiple personality disorder, hit 5, 3, 2, 4 and 6”), he points out the inadequacy of the system.
Part of the message that where the homeless are concerned, “attention must be paid” (to quote Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”) involves the audience. A hint to those who sit in the first row: please interact! Tino will reach out to you with questions, asking your name or how you feel about something he’s said — answer him!
During the performance I attended, Tino goes into something of a trance state, losing his train of thought while bent over and calling out “Georgette, are you there?” so frequently that another member of the audience finally hollered “yes” so the action could continue.
This is a performance worth your time and will linger in your imagination for a long time to come.
“Silent” by Pat Kinevane for the remarkable Fishamble Company of Ireland, runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Dec. 16. Go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com or call the box office at (310) 477-2055.
Holiday music with an edge
Start your season on a (legal!) high. Chock full of special guests, including humorist Sandra Tsing Loh and the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, Jacaranda: Music at the Edge has a joyous concert planned this weekend.
“Winter Dreams” includes the music of Bach, Britten, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Ives, Johnston, Lang and Glass, and it’s billed as a journey offering both festive and contemplative music from the Baroque and late Romantic periods to living American composers.
It takes place, as all their concerts do, at the architecturally stunning First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica. Find out more at www.jacarandamusic.org or call (213) 483-0216.
The greatest Gatsby
I’m thrilled that on Saturday I’ll be at one of the most talked-about theatrical experiences of the past few years.
“Gatz” by Elevator Repair Service at REDCAT, the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theatre at Disney Hall Downtown, is a full seven-hour “enactment” of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, “The Great Gatsby.” I’ll report more next week, but find out why the New York Times calls it, “The most remarkable achievement in theater not only of this year but also of this decade,” by visiting www.redcat.org/
I’ll also tell you more next week about “A Coney Island Christmas,” at The Geffen Playhouse in Westwood and “Second City’s A Christmas Carol Twist Your Dickens,” opening Nov. 29 at The Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
“A Coney Island Christmas” written by Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies is based on one of the single most hilarious stories ever written by Grace Paley, “The Loudest Voice.” A Jewish girl is cast as Jesus in her school’s Christmas pageant; years later she tells that tale to her great granddaughter. Visit http://geffenplayhouse.com/ or call (310) 208-5454.
“Second City’s A Christmas Carol Twist Your Dickens” will be laugh out loud funny because it features the absurdly hysterical shenanigans of the lauded Second City humor troupe (think “SCTV” and “Mad TV”), and includes Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) and Larry Joe Campbell (“According to Jim”) among many other cast members and amazing guest stars. More info at www.centertheatregroup.org/ or contact (213) 628-2772.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.