Category: Road Theatre Company

Theater review: 'Finding Fossils' at the Lankershim Arts Center

February 2, 2012 |  4:00 pm

FINDINGFOSSILS-1

"Finding Fossils," now receiving a respectable L.A. premiere at the Lankershim Arts Center, finds playwright Ty DeMartino examining the contentious relationship between a recent widower and his gay son. As such, this Road Theatre Company presentation, which plays in rep with "The Water's Edge," may resonate with sympathetic audiences, though its dramatic viability is variable.

It's Fourth of July weekend at the Monterelli family summer home, where patriarch Vincent (John Gowans) previously brought his ailing wife to die, without informing his long-estranged kids. This holiday, Gus (Chet Grissom), his soap opera director son, reluctantly arrives for one last stab at connecting with cantankerous Dad. It takes lakeside neighbor Johnny (Mark Costello), a maternal caregiver and contrast to the bickering Monterellis, to put things in perspective.

Under Suzanne Hunt's capable direction, "Fossils" suggests an inversion of the film "Beginners" by way of a bucolic dramedy -- think "On Golden Pond" killing off Ethel Thayer and giving Chelsea an inchoate gay brother. Grissom does yeoman work as Gus, most touching against Gowans' keenly understated curmudgeon, and Costello's easy bonhomie makes Johnny's character and situation the most interesting on stage.

That's a problem. Although author DeMartino intelligently charts the central dynamic, he hasn't given its clashes and revelations very high stakes or much surprise, and the over-explicated dialogue specifies some things better left inferred through the rising action. "Finding Fossils" isn't a bad play, but the literate familiarity and soft-cored impact seem more suited to the pages of the New Yorker. 

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-- David C. Nichols

"Finding Fossils," Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 25. $25. (866) 811-4111 or www.RoadTheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Photo: John Gowans, left, Chet Grissom and Mark Costello. Credit: Chris Goss.

Theater review: 'The Water's Edge' at the Lankershim Arts Center

January 26, 2012 | 10:01 am

The Water's Edge

"Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," says one of the angrily bewildered characters in "The Water's Edge" at the Road Theatre. Talk about understatement. Playwright Theresa Rebeck's 2006 drama drop-kicks the House of Atreus into Showtime territory, with ungainly yet arresting results.

Seventeen years ago, Richard (an assured Albie Selznick) left Massachusetts following a tragedy that Rebeck withholds for much of Act 1.  Now a moneyed jet-setter, Richard returns to the lakeside home his father bequeathed him -- superbly realized by designer Desma Murphy with equal parts Rousseau and Wyeth --  younger girlfriend Lucy (fine-tuned Lauren Birriel) in tow, to reclaim both estate and estranged clan.

Erica (vivid Paris Perrault), his daughter, reacts with hostility tempered by Daddy's Favorite conflicts. Nate (Patrick Rieger, a find), his son, is more sanguine, though his halting speech and lack of ambition suggest deeper fissures. Critically, there is Helen (the valiant Nicole Farmer), Richard's wife, whose brittle civility masks an aquifer of bereaved fury.

Although stashing Aeschylus within postmodern family dramaturgy forces Rebeck to clash form and content to the near-breaking point, her facility with double-edged dialogue remains acute. Sam Anderson stylishly directs an expert design team, Kathi O'Donohue's lighting is particularly adroit, and an intense cast.

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