|Its one thing to appreciate Murray Mednick’s form, but quite an altogether different experience when you see his poetic structure onstage. Both plays, “Gary’s Nightmarish Audition” and the “The Fool and the Red Queen” relate to one another in such subtle but powerfully intrinsic ways that one can view these as a conversation between shifting realities and the artistic process.
In the audition, Mednick’s hero, Gary Bean, (John Diehl) intellectually grapples with two comic jesters, Chauncey and Rondell, (Jack Kehler and Gray Palmer), both stereotypical pseudo-producers/screenwriters who envision a film that’s both a “protest and a love story.” Neither one nor the other, the trio slides around with rough draft versions of “sides” and improvisational verbal volleys that raise deep personal issues for Gary and the loss of his son. Playing a role of a martyr in a medieval netherworld, Gary’s part is a soldier entrenched in regret and sorrow given a haunting indifference by Diehl; but he truly shines, (deserving the early kudos by Mednick) in the Orestes monologue, lending the words significance and power without overwhelming the piece with unnecessary affectation. Both Kehler and Palmer are crack-ups—Kehler’s relaxed but goofy seriousness is further heightened by Palmer’s frenetic energy. Video gives three slightly varying perspectives that blur the lines between the observer and the observed, adding a juxtaposition that transposes smoothly into the second play.
Segueing into the fantastical but cinematic world of “The Fool and the Red Queen,” Mednick explores the volatile power dynamics between a mad queen (Julia Prud'homme) and her ineffectual fool (Bill Celentano). The pair is mesmerizing in their vaudevillian-esque courtship. Prod’homme inhabits her queenly role (bolstered by a stylish, sexy corseted dress by Ann Closs-Farley) with droll humor and complete conviction while maintaining a fragile femininity. Celentano is supremely sympathetic in his impotent frustration as he runs literally in place and jumps through every psychological hoop placed before him. All of this plays out on Jeffrey Atherton’s simply, but marvelously dressed set with excellent lighting by Matt Richter.
Of all the archetypal characters, Peggy A. Blow steals the show as she slips in and out of both plays as a sort of narrator for the audience as a grim Innkeeper and a fly in the queen’s court. Her vocal quality lends comic asides with foreboding and certain dollops of observational truths. She, in effect, becomes the glue holding both plays together as she slinks around and makes tantalizing gestures like a witch stirring a caldron.
Murray Mednick’s plays are not your typical plot pruned storylines that can be easily watched without investment on the part of the viewer. They demand engagement and cerebral interplay. The language is poetically potent and anyone willing to meet this duo of Mednick’s latest Gary cycle plays in the manner in which it is artistically delivered will appreciate the somewhat off-kilter, strangely familiar but visceral world in which Gary, a Fool and a Red Queen inhabit.
“Gary’s Nightmarish Audition” & “The Fool and the Red Queen”
Runs May 19 – June 24
Fri & Sat @ 8pm
Sun @ 7pm
6201 Santa Monica Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90038
(just east of Vine)
--M.R. Hunter (eyespylareviews[at]gmail.com)
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