Anton Chekhov reportedly said, “If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, if must fire in the last.”
The same might be said about golf clubs.
In Timothy McNeil’s “The Twilight of Schlomo,” now having its world premiere at The Elephant Space in Hollywood, there is indeed a set of golf clubs stuffed into a black trash bag in the corner of Richard (nee Schlomo Berger)’s seedy apartment. And, true to Chekhov’s Law, they are swung by the end of the last act.
Conversely (or perversely), however, another potential “law” is overlooked: “If you introduce a character, try to make sure he shows up at some point in the play.” In a funny opening monologue, Richard (a grubby but appealing Jonathan Goldstein) introduces himself and the bevy of flaky neighbors that surround him. These include a drug dealer who sells only heroin, a transvestite hooker, a “creepy guy” who Richard suspects is a serial killer, and the most appalling of all — Texans!
A promising group, but after this brief mention, none of them appears, nor are they mentioned again — except for the Texans. The transvestite hooker might have been a neat addition.
Richard, who has a propensity for strippers (he married and divorced two of them), now lives, twice a week, with Galina, a former “exotic dancer” who is studying for her master’s in eastern European and Russian poetry at UCLA. (Galina is played by Kelly Hill, alternating with Vera Cherny.)
Richard also has a stepdaughter named RFK (Lilan Bowden) whom he hasn’t seen in years. She suddenly shows up, full of warmth and affection for Richard, whom she calls “Poppy,” and explains to Galina that she was named for Bobby Kennedy because her mother admired him, “not for his politics, but his hair.”
Richard, who had been a stand-up comic for 15 years, tells of blowing his chance to appear on the “Tonight Show” because he “dropped acid in the back of the limo on his way to the show.” Asked if he had met Johnny Carson, he responds, “I think so. But his face was melting, so I’m not sure it was him.”
Richard is currently a wine salesman, but that isn’t what he drinks throughout the play. He guzzles beer or bourbon, smokes pot from an emerald green bong he calls “Princess,” and snorts endless lines of cocaine with his Texan neighbor (Danny Parker).
“If you are living paycheck to paycheck, it’s always best to spend whatever’s left on the most addictive stuff you can get your hands on,” Richard says. And he feels secure because he has a “solid cushion” of $450 in savings.
According to Galina, Richard is “just a bad habit with slightly addictive properties,” but, she admits, “he is warm, and he listens.”
“Women hate me, but they seem to be drawn to me,” Richard says, adding that sex is “the only thing I’m good at, and it keeps me feeling good about myself.”
But feeling good about himself is only a “sometime” thing with Richard. He is aware that his addictions will eventually kill him, and he faces his “twilight” with anger and despair.
Meanwhile, in an effort to bond with him, RFK has decided to become a Jew and begins a rigorous round of studying the Torah. But that’s another whole sub-plot, in a play made up of disassociated sub-plots and discordant characters.
Ironically, under director David Fofi, the actors all do a commendable job. Now, if we could only figure out where playwright McNeil is going with it all.
“The Twilight of Schlomo” will play Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Feb. 9 at The Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. Call (323) 960-4442 for tickets.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.