About six years ago I went to see a play having its world premiere at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills. It was called “Breaking and Entering” and I gave it a pretty harsh review.¬† So a couple of weeks ago, when the playwright, Colin Mitchell, dropped me a note to invite me to come see it again, he made sure to add that it had been rewritten, revised, refreshed, recast, and redirected.
How could I turn down an invitation like that?
The story revolves around W.J. Trumbull, a one-book wonder reminiscent of J.D. Salinger and “Catcher in the Rye.” Like Salinger, Trumbull has become a grumpy recluse, having retreated to his rustic hideaway in the woods. But whereas Salinger continued to write and publish, Trumbull‚Äôs one book was all he wrote, which may explain his grumpiness.
At any rate, on a night when he is avidly listening to the seventh game of the World Series, his house is broken into by an insistent fan: an attractive young woman named Milly Smith. Initially outraged, (he calls her a “psychotic evangelical feminist”) Trumbull eventually succumbs to her charm and they engage in a conversation about truth and reality (“Reality is that which affects us,” he tells her, and “With truth comes responsibility”). Finally, she gets to the real reason for her break-in: she has written a book (“a masterpiece,” she calls it) about him.
Her book chronicles his entire life, including the current evening, and reveals secrets, and even murder, that she ostensibly would have no way of knowing. Is she a witch? A ghost? His conscience?
Director Sebastian Munoz has staged this drama in a curious way. Trumbull, played by Matthew Sklar, delivers most of his lines with his back to Milly (Katherine Canipe), who hovers close behind him, as if she were sitting on his shoulder, whispering in his ear.
Further, Munoz has allowed Sklar to deliver every line at the top of his lungs, with almost never a change in tone.¬† He is “projecting” for the Ahmanson in a theater that is the size of a postage stamp.
For her part, Canipe is engaging, as are the Tweedledum and Tweedledee baseball announcers, Jerry Chappell and Jason Britt, who provide the comedy relief.
Playwright Colin Mitchell, who is the editor of the popular and respected online theater review magazine Bitter Lemons, has done an admirable job of rewriting, revising, and refreshing his play.
Much better, Colin.¬† Nice work and nice writing.
“Breaking and Entering” can be seen Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., Nov. 15, 16, 22, 23, and 29 at Zombie Joe‚Äôs Underground Theatre Group, 4850 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. For tickets, call (818) 202-4120.
From Santa Monica, it‚Äôs up the 405 Freeway to the 101, east to Lankershim and a short ride north to the theater, which is at the southern tip of NoHo.
Help, I‚Äôm drowning and I can‚Äôt get up!
Just a warning: when you get up to leave the theater after seeing “All Is Lost” you‚Äôre going to be sloshing in your shoes. Your mouth will taste like seawater and your fingers will look like raisins.
God knows what Robert Redford looked like each day when he finished battling the storms, getting tossed overboard, banging into the cupboards and furniture on his boat, and rummaging around in water up to his chest!
In this solo performance, a tour de force for Redford, the 77-year-old actor braves the elements on the Indian Ocean in his small sailboat. What he is doing there, where he is going, even his name is unknown. There is no backstory to this man. All that matters is his struggle to survive after his boat is breached by a huge metal container free-floating in the ocean.
The boat is equipped with everything a sailor could need if he were marooned, say, off the Channel Islands. But in the middle of an endless ocean, 1,700 miles from the straits of Sumatra, with no wind and a broken mast, there‚Äôs not much a man can do.
Moreover, all the radio and electrical equipment is waterlogged, short-circuited, and irreparable. But in true “MacGyver” fashion, Redford spends the days “fixing” things: Gluing, twisting, bolting, plugging, bailing. It‚Äôs amazing how much he knows how to do to keep a crippled boat afloat.
Another thing that‚Äôs remarkable is the look of the ocean. Unlike the ocean in “Life of Pi,” it is not gloriously blue and inviting. The Indian Ocean here is cold and gray and the sky is relentlessly overcast ‚Äî when it isn‚Äôt raining.
Except for the sounds of the sea and the ferocious storms, and occasional unobtrusive background music, there is very little audio in this film. Redford speaks briefly at the beginning and the end. The rest of the time he speaks with his face.
“All Is Lost” is a tense, gripping, and magnificent movie. Look for it at your neighborhood movie theater. And look for Redford, a Santa Monica native, at the Academy Awards.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.