by Cynthia Citron

Well, I knew it had to end some time. I have had the good fortune to see many delicious plays in the last month. Unfortunately, the lucky streak ended last weekend.

The play was “Hello Stranger” and it played at Theatre of NOTE in Hollywood.

There were six actors and all of them were extremely good. But a play is only as good as its writing and, secondarily, its plot. And this play was dreadful on both counts.

And so was its ugly set, with its tall wire fence bordered by the remains of dead plants and other junk.

The story involves a man named Mike (Trevor H. Olsen) who returns to the 30th reunion of his high school class in Fontana, in the area of California grandly called the Inland Empire.

And the rest of the play proceeds to reveal how grand it isn’t.

It’s the day after the reunion and it’s the Day of The Dead.

A sad and lonely Mike is wandering around in the backyard of the house he grew up in.

It is occupied now by a contentious woman named Carla (Reamy Hall) and the dreamy and mysterious young black girl (Aliyah Conley) that she calls her daughter.

After awhile Mike is accosted by a lovely woman (Elinor Gunn) wearing a diaphanous peignoir who confesses that she likes sex and attempts to seduce him.

There is also a very inebriated Mexican named Jesus (Alexis DeLaRosa) who engages in a clumsy disjointed round of dancing and tells Mike how the town has changed since the time when Mike lived there.

He tells of the man in the big house on the hill who lures children into his house and kills them. And he talks about his own son, who is retarded. And about Mike’s mother, who was the town whore.

The scene changes abruptly and Mike is now a little boy sitting and reminiscing with his mother — the woman in the peignoir.
And finally, all the players return in costumes or masks in celebration of the Day Of The Dead and the creepy little girl, who may be a ghost (?), delivers a pithy monologue which presumably sums it all up and might have been profound if I had understood what she was talking about.

I think the play has something to do with everyone’s need for love and how the search for it defines them, and how nostalgia for a past that no longer exists confirms Thomas Wolfe’s contention that you can’t go home again.
But then, your guess is as good as mine.

The playwright, Sharon Yablon, is identified in the playbill as a writer whose plays have been published in journals, and the director, Sarah Figoten Wilson, who did a commendable job with her cast, has a substantial list of credits for both directing and costume design acquired in California theaters.

“Hello Stranger” can be viewed Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through November 18 at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood. You can make reservations online at www.theatreofnote.com.

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