BWW Review: FAILURE: A LOVE STORY Opens the Block Party Series at the Kirk Douglas Theatre
Los Angeles is home to over 250 theatre companies, featuring an abundance of talent, diversity, and ingenuity. To celebrate the vibrant theatre of our city, Center Theatre Group is presenting three recent productions from local theatre companies at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, highlighting some of the best work our town has to offer. Block Party highlights some of the remarkable work being done on other, more intimate theatres throughout Los Angeles by fully producing three previously staged productions. The three shows receive the full support of Center Theatre Group and its staff in order to fund, stage and market each production.
Center Theatre Group received 76 submissions for Block Party from intimate theatre companies from North Hollywood to San Pedro, Topanga to Sierra Madre. With Block Party, Center Theatre Group hopes to strengthen relationships within the Los Angeles community, create additional avenues for the organization to become familiar with local playwrights, actors, directors and designers, and foster relationships between Center Theatre Group staff and the staff at theatre companies throughout Los Angeles.
"As we celebrate Center Theatre Group's 50 years of creating theatre in Los Angeles, we want to turn the spotlight on some of the remarkable work being done on other stages," said Center Theatre Group Artistic Director Michael Ritchie in discussing Block Party. "Coeurage Theatre, Echo Theater and Fountain Theatre, as well as others throughout L.A., regularly produce excellent, boundary-pushing work and we're so glad they are sharing some of that work with us."The first in the Block Party series is "Failure: A Love Story," an Ovation Award-winning production first presented at Coeurage Theatre Company. The play was written by Philip Dawkins and is directed by Michael Matthews, running through April 23, 2017, with 11 performances only. Subsequent Block Party productions will be The Fountain Theatre's production of "Citizen: An American Lyric" running April 28 through May 7 and The Echo Theater Company's production of "Dry Land" running May 12 through May 21. "Failure: A Love Story" chronicles the lives, loves and deaths of the three Fail sisters (June Carryl, Margaret Katch, and Nicole Shalhoub) and the one man with the double moniker Mortimer Mortimer (Kurt Quinn) who fell in love with each of them but not at the same time. Set against the backdrop of 1920s Chicago, this touching, whimsical tale explores the impermanence of life and the permanence of love, especially among devoted family members. The "failure" in the title refers to poor Mortimer's inability to ever marry any of the three sisters after falling in love with them, as the untimely deaths of the three sisters happen before any marriages can take place.
With scenic design by JR Bruce incorporating props galore on the many shelves surrounding the stage, we are invited in to meet the Fail family, who owns and operates a very eclectic clockworks shop. I salute director Michael Matthews for his color-blind casting, offering us a racially mixed-up family, in which cast members are showcased for their talents, not the color of their skin - which is never mentioned in the play. The triple-threat cast includes Joe Calarco, June Carryl, Cristina Gerla, KrisTina Johnson, Margaret Katch, Denver Milord, Gregory Nabours, Theodore Perkins, Kurt Quinn, Brandon Ruiter, Nicole Shalhoub, Gina Torrecilla and Brittney S. Wheeler.
Though at times the story seems almost secondary to the brilliant, if somewhat frenetic, staging and ensemble choreography performed to perfection on the night I attended, one of the highlights for me was every time a scene took place around the clock shop with several ensemble members portraying the many types of clocks actively keeping time in their own unique ways and sounds. Of special note was Brittney S. Wheeler's Felix the Cat face clock, complete with bulging side-to-side eye movements. The clock scenes took me back to my childhood when my fascination with time pieces often had me sitting for hours in the clock departments of many major retail outlets.Also of note are the many animals kept around the shop, including a large "snake" made up of interlocking materials, its movement dazzling to watch as manipulated by two ensemble members, as well as two rather boisterous parrots represented by green, feathery lampshades held aloft by two ensemble members.
Adding to the splendid technical credits are 1920s period costumes designed by Allison Dillard, attention-focusing lighting design by Matthew Brian Denman, and original music, arrangements and music direction by Gregory Nabours, who appears onstage at the piano with cast members throughout the production.Tickets for all three Block Party productions are available by calling (213) 628-2772, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre or two hours prior to performance at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office, located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA 90232, with ample free parking and restaurants adjacent. Tickets range from $25 - $70. Tickets for all three Block Party productions can be purchased as a package for $67. The package is only available in person or by phone. Please note "Failure: A Love Story" runs without an intermission.
As an homage to Coeurage Theatre's payment structure, the first Friday performance of each production will be a pay-what-you-want performance, based on availabilty. Pay-what-you-want gives patrons the opportunity to decide what their theatre experience was worth to them before, during or after the performance. Pay-what-you-want performances for "Citizen" will be on April 28 and "Dry Land" will be on May 12.
Photos by Craig Schwartz.