In a bewildering, long-winded, stream of consciousness train of thought peppered with non sequiturs, playwright and actor Abbott Alexander delivers a 90-minute monologue that will leave you noggle-swoggled and mind-boggled, to say the least.
The play is “The Long Gravel Road’”, a reference to the road that Alexander descends each day (it’s actually his driveway) to retrieve his morning newspaper. In the pre-dawn hours of what promises to be a lovely day, he muses aloud on the various events of his life and tells of them through the words spoken or written by once-famous authors, most of whom you’ve never heard of.
He is obviously enamored of the poems of Robert Frost, quoting from “the road less traveled,” and of Aurora, the Greek “Goddess of Time.” He also interrupts his soliloquy occasionally to moo, explaining that when he moos “it’s for the elephants, too.”
He also enjoys Mark Twain, as he goes about physically staging an imaginary fight between Twain’s celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County and a frog that Robert Frost apparently secreted irretrievably in some obscure poem so that I couldn’t find it. In any case, Alexander refers to the episode as “Twain and Frost’s Mashup of Frogs.”
He talks about people as being “the worms of God — God’s bait” and then exclaims later, “If God’s a bird, I’m no bait!”
He also reveals that he served in the Peace Corps, which he likens to the Foreign Legion, and goes on to ask “Tennis, anyone?” and follows up by asking “Tennyson, anyone?”
All the while he is accompanied on the barren stage by thumping drums and whistles and other surprising loud noises created by composer and music director Garrett Parks (whose name immediately identifies him as the son of actors Betty Garrett and Larry Parks.) Alexander also provides music of a sort by making diddly-boom sounds and other weird clicking and huffing noises with his tongue and teeth, occasionally breaking off to provide uncanny dance movements with his legs and feet.
As he recalls taking his son to school he makes the sound of clopping horses and announces that it is the fourth day in Genesis.
He imitates the gestures of a mime and invents silly puzzles like “Who invented the first sponge?” and supplies the answer: “Absorba the Greek!”
He sings chants of the American Indians and describes catacombs as “bunkbeds in the earth.” He confesses to “searching for one thought that never arrives” and adds,
“My inner warrior loses all my battles.”
And finally, at the end, he bunches his body into the shape of a very old man and with his hands reaching forward to hold onto the handles of an imaginary walker, he clicks
the sounds that a walker makes and slowly moves across the stage to the exit.
In summing up a viewer’s possible reaction to this very complicated play, it might be appropriate to quote a comment by the afore-mentioned Robert Frost:
“A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.”
“The Long Gravel Road” will run every Saturday night at 8 through June 1 at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles. To reserve tickets, call the box office at 323-851-7977 or reserve online at www.theatrewest.org