The world premiere (eek!) of Please Don’t Ask About Becket (hum), a memory play (eek!), by celebrated playwright Wendy Graf (yay!) is on stage at the Sacred Fools Black Box theatre (yay!) with Kiff Scholl as captain director of the ship (yay!).
The thoughts in parentheses were my “before” thoughts on the situation and I’m pretty sure they hold true as my “after” thoughts. In more traditional theatre review fashion, I will attempt to explain.
First, the obligatory plot points you can find in any press release:
PDAAB is a story of a loving, but disfunctional family with every bit of power and privilege at their disposal, who could not seem to prevent the loss of one of their own. Their loss was their charismatic and gifted child, the beloved twin, Becket. Emily, the remaining twin, is haunted by the loss of her brother, and the recounting of the progression of his spiral downward is viewed through her eyes and perspective. It’s an intense play asking hard questions of the responsibility of parents in their child’s poor behavior. It raises the possibility of harm in doing too much for a child instead of allowing them to experience the consequences of their own decisions. Also, how does it all go so wrong with one child when the other appears to be fine, while being raised under the same roof?
Let’s just take my “thoughts” in order.
This is a world premiere. It sounds exciting, and it IS exciting. This is the first time the show is up on its feet for an audience to see, for a full run of the play. Every play has to start somewhere and a world premiere, whether it’s promoted as that or not, is the place it starts. There are plenty of re-writes before this stage, sometimes during this stage, and still after this stage. Because I love theatre, I love a world premiere. But because I love theatre, I also cringe a little. It’s a rare thing to see a really great world premiere. There is usually still work to be done. In this case, I’d say this logic holds true. The writing is powerful and at times the dialogue is fantastic, but this isn’t a great play. Not yet.
The title: Please Don’t Ask About Becket. I cannot be the only theatre geek in LA that immediately assumes this show must have something, in some way, to do with Samuel Beckett. Possibly some hints of absurdity? A little avant-garde? Nope. Becket is a family name. Expectations thwarted.
This is a memory play. Generally, I am not a big fan. So, sorry about that. This one didn’t change my mind. And honestly this has to be a big influencer on my feelings of this not being a great play.
This show is written by celebrated playwright, Wendy Graf. I think Los Angeles would like to claim her as our own but her plays have premiered all over the country. We know her most recently for All American Girl. It was HUGE here, and sadly I missed it. But she has a lot of fans and that’s not lost on me.
The venue is Sacred Fools Black Box. I’m a fan of Sacred Fools, plain and simple. If you don’t know them, you should. If you do, you know what I’m talking about.
The director is Kiff Scholl. I feel like he is a mini (or major) celebrity director in the LA theatre scene. It seems like he’s always directing something, and people say lots and lots of good things about him. And yes, he’s won a few awards too. Now, I have one major beef with a director decision for this show, and that was the decision to perform the show in the round. This is something coming from me, as theatre in the round is my absolute favorite form of staging. But I don’t think it served this particular production well, leading to blocking that, at times, was truly distracting, taking away from some intense and emotional scenes.
I haven’t mentioned the actors yet, because I was saving the best for last. This show is brilliantly acted, plain and simple. With veterans like Rob Nagle (as the father, Rob) and Debroah Puette (as the mother, Grace) I don’t know how you could possibly go wrong. Rachel Seiferth (as twin, Emily) and Hunter Garner (as twin, Backet) fill out the small, strong ensemble. Go to see this show to see them, if for no other reason. And shame on me for the late mention of Evan A. Bartloletti (set), Kelley Finn (lights), Cricket S. Myers (sound) and Wendell C. Carmichael (costumes). They were all lovely and more important than I give credit for.
Who is still putting their vote in the NO column when asked if LA theatre is going strong? Well, this show puts one more tick in the YES column. Check it out.
Please Don’t Ask About Becket
Sacred Fools Black Box
6322 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90038
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm
Through September 18th
Tickets: 323-960-7745 or at: www.plays411.com/becket