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‘Two Fisted Love’ at the Odyssey — Lots of Talent, but…

A Review

By Ernest Kearney  —  There is a great deal of talent involved in Two Fisted Love at the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre.

On stage and off, the production is saturated with film and television professionals whose program notes would prime the salivation glands of about 87 percent of the actors in this town.  We are talking the gold standard for any resume: NCIS: Here, NCIS: There, Brazilian soap operas, London stage, Westworld, Baskets, Tonys’, Desk Awards, Ovations, Critics Choice, Kennedy Center, The Goodman, Juilliard, Nip & Tuck, Buffy, West End, Broadway, Babylon 5, Louisville, South Coast Rep, Ahmanson and Smitty’s!

A downright convoy of 18-wheeled tankards, bloated full of talent; that’s what they’ve got.

But a play, they do not.

It’s 2008, at the outset of that Ragnarök of Reaganomics, when the trickle-down toxicity of deregulation ushered in the Wall Street collapse.

Fortunately, Wall Street landed on something that broke their fall.

Unfortunately, it was the back of the middle class which was sent the way of the Do-Do, and those red threads in band-aid wrappers.

Playwright David Sessions has re-booted Grant Wood’s American Gothic swapping the dentist’s pitchfork for a chainsaw, while slipping Freddy Kruger the keys to the American Dream for good measure.

Sessions represents his cast of characters as the “1 percent of the 1 percent”: there’s Kevin (playwright Sessions), a Gordon Gekko clone from Reseda, and his business partner Andy (Jason Downs), a coked-out Brit pedophile who at one point channels Alex DeLarge.

The setting is the swank apartment of Kevin and his film star wife Caroline (Serena Scott Thomas), who is afflicted with MS and running on high octave PMS. There’s fellow capitalist bloodsucker Robert (Revé Navarro) and his wife Maggie (Lynne Oropeza), Caroline’s daughter (Laura Long) a frayed ex-addict in search of a thicker epidermis, Caroline’s son (Jacob Osborne), and the young live-in (Paula Lafayette) whose eventual function in the drama is slightly less obvious than a concert hall full of polka bands.

From the outset none of these characters seem to like each other as they rage and vent and spew in grand style and with great intensity, but in doing so they offer little to engage the audience; so dramatically it’s about on par with watching frogs pureed in a blender.

The fault here must be placed on the playwright.

Pieces on a board do not make a chess game, and what distinguishes the true player from a wood pusher is the infusion of strategy behind the movement of each piece.

Passions, car accidents, seduction, madness, murder, suicide, Sessions has set all the pieces out, but those pieces alone no more make for a satisfying drama than a rook, pawn and white bishop constitute an exciting match.

Sessions seems to have assembled his play from attitudes rather than weaving it from those genuine human emotions that arise when personalities are in conflict.  Nor does he integrate those elements he introduces into the work’s overall arc.

At the play’s opening, much is made about a work of art recently purchased by Caroline, one of Jasper Johns’s encaustic rendering of the America flag.  It causes a few intense moments between Caroline and her husband, then not another glance or even reference to it.

Sessions has worked the surface details nicely but has not attended to the interior demands of the piece.  This limits what director Jules Aaron can accomplish since, like an iceberg, a director’s work is 90 percent beneath the surface.   All Aaron can do here is keep the pacing up and his head down.

Sessions has certainly crowded the stage with lava flows but there’s no heat coming off the magma here, and nothing short of a full reworking of the piece will serve to resolve that.

(Featured in Image: Serena Scott Thomas, David Sessions in Two Fisted Love — Photo by Ed Krieger)

♦    ♦    ♦

  Smitty!  There’s a neurotransmitter I haven’t called up in years.  Back in the late ‘60s, Smitty was the ballet obsessed iconoclastic icon of L.A. theatre. He operated a cramped coffee shop off Hollywood Boulevard where I used to hang-out; a relic from the “Beats Generation.”    One day I asked him if I could stage a play there. (A musical production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  What can I say, I was young and doing lots of drugs.)  Smitty found he sold more coffee when audiences came to a play, so he asked me to spread the word that he was “cool” on theatre.   Smitty imposed no restriction on the artists who approached him.  Eventually Robert Patrick of Kennedy’s Children would sign on as literary manager, you could find yourself in the audience with Laurence Olivier, and Harvey Fierstein would tryout Torch Song Trilogy decades before it ever got near Broadway.

 

 ♦    ♦    ♦

 

Two Fisted Loved

is playing at the

Odyssey Theatre

Running February 1 thru  March 11, 2018

with performances on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Odyssey Theatre
2055 South Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025

For Tickets and Additional Information

call 866-811-4111 or go to www.twofistedlove.com.


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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest’s stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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