BWW Reviews: AFTERLOVES: LOVE LIFE IN THE AFTERLIFE is Brilliantly Acted and Astounding Clever
I asked Ron Hanks and Betsy Reisz how they decided on the characters and combinations for the show, and both told me they each had certain characters they really wanted to play and then figured out how any of them could have been matched up in heaven. Straddling the worlds of sketch comedy and theater, this show is brilliantly acted and astounding clever and will make you laugh at absurdities and ponder the deeper truths of our pursuits of love and fulfillment.
Much research was done to create the characters as true to their real life personas as possible. Placards are changed before each couple is presented, making you think about how these two could possibly be a match made in heaven as the actors quickly change costumes backstage. Appropriate music selections relating to the previous scene play between the pieces. Come discover what happens next in the love lives of public figures after their chapters have ended here on Earth.
The Virgin Mary and P.T. Barnum: It seems there are theme weeks in Heaven, and Mary is thoroughly enjoyed Candy Week, perhaps a bit too much given the amount of nervous energy she displays while talking with P.T. Barnum, who of course just wants to put on another great show. Mary protests being involved which leads to a discussion of their previous lovers. Barnum's great embarrassment at having had fewer lovers than the Virgin Mary leads her to proclaim, "I had a baby at 14; a baby having a baby! How fair was that? And you know I'm not still a virgin. Why does everyone insist on calling me by that name?" These two work out their differences as the show must go on!
Tesla and Cleopatra: Tesla is better known now due to the car bearing his name, but few may know he invented alternating current electricity. But he was a germaphobe who loved birds more than people. And we all know what kind of a temptress Cleopatra was, having no boundaries. But here she is having little success until transforming into the Goddess Isis, represented by a bird and thus gaining the interest of the overly shy and uptight Tesla, especially when she reminds him there are no germs in Heaven.
Ernest Hemingway and Marie Antoinette: The brooding writer manages to puzzle the simple-minded Toni whenever he speaks. His need to kill a wild animal to get into the mood to make love to a woman leads them to acting out a poor milkmaid scenario which descends the audience into uproarious laughter the more outrageous it becomes.
Mark Twain and Joan of Arc: It seems Joan is ready to give up her virginal lifestyle and is trying to find out if Samuel is the right man for her. Reisz as the low key Joan allows Hanks to shine as the larger than life writer complete with wild hair and moustache.
King Tut and Tennessee Williams: In this very short piece, Williams propositions the young King Tut, leading him to "Walk Like an Egyptian" right off the stage!
Rasputin and Anne Boleyn: More great characters with the long-bearded Rasputin in rags and Boleyn in jewels. Meeting at the library, Hanks does a Herculean job as Rasputin trying to seduce Boleyn. But even his smooth ramblings cannot get past the huge stumbling block she throws in his way.
Judy Garland and Abraham Lincoln: This was probably my favorite match up, two people who try to outdo each other's stories with Reisz descending into madness as Garland demands to be the center of attention, thinking she was much more popular than he ever was. Their back-and-forth one-upmanship allowed this scene to shine as brilliantly as Garland's sparkly jacket.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning: And lastly, we get treated to a real life couple communicating via writing as they always did in life. Finally admitting she is still a better writer than he ever was or will be, the two end the show in each other's arms dancing the night away! A very lovely ending to a most imaginative show.
AFTERLOVES: LOVE LIFE IN THE AFTERLIFE, written and performed by Ron Hanks and Betsy Reisz, has one more Fringe performance at 7:45pm on Tuesday, June 23, 2014 at The Lounge Theatre, located at 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90038.Tickets are $12 and can be ordered in advance at http://hff14.org/1709
I really hope these two extremely talented performers find a way to present their show again and again so more people have the pleasure to meet these imaginative characters!