BWW Reviews: Dale Griffiths Stamos' Mini Plays at Beverly Hills Playhouse Will Turn You LOVESTRUCK
Lovestruck/8 short one-acts by Dale Griffiths Stamos
Produced by Three Roses Players and Venice Sky Productions/directed by Maggie Grant
Beverly Hills Playhouse/through May 27 only
Playwright Dale Griffiths Stamos has conceived an intriguing world premiere evening of short one-acts, 10 -15 minutes each, called Lovestruck, all dealing with the theme of love: parental love, love based purely on sexual attraction, marital love, love for those over 70, homosexual love and even abusive love. Some are funny; some, exceedingly serious. With an outstanding company of 15 actors and 7 out of 8 directed by Maggie Grant (who also acts in two of them ) - the 8th is helmed by Barbara Bain - the play is in residence at the Beverly Hills Playhouse through May 27, which means you have only two more weekends to get lovestruck.
Identity, starring Barbara Bain, Peter Van Norden and Dave Roberts, offers an elderly mother suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Hearing on the radio that a popular jazz musician has died, Roxanne (Bain) begins to vent some feelings that her son Paul (Roberts) does not understand. In fact the unsettling news that he hears from his father (Van Norden) sheds a whole new light on his relationship with both parents and makes for an unusually uncomfortable Sunday visit to the home where Roxanne resides. Bain steals the scene with merely a few scattered lines to say. Her discombobulated reactions and emotions are pulsating. Despite the heartbreak of the whole scenario, her delicately beautiful performance exudes a bittersweet joy that is enthralling. Matchmade, co-starring Bain and Nick Ullett, is much lighter, very funny and terribly, terribly sweet. Meredith (Bain) owns a matchmaking agency for folks over 70 and her no-nonsense approach to not dating clients is put to the test when applicant Charlie (Ullett) turns out to be an old flame, her deceased husband's best friend in college. Both Bain and Ullett are awfully good as two people trying to express the awkward feelings of two older lovers who haven't seen each other for close to fifty years. Bain is especially riveting in a roller coaster mix of strength and vulnerability.
Of the two monologues Jeremy's Fear starring Eric Charles Jorgenson as a closeted homosexual musician is the most engaging. Speaking with a pastor after his mother's funeral service, Jeremy (Jorgenson) describes the struggles/joys of love in the gay world in spite of what religion has dictated. Stamos' detailed writing, which gives Jeremy free reign and Jorgenson's heartfelt work make this playlet a little gem.
Also of note on the lighter side are Amanda Split, The One, with a particularly enjoyable performance by Kirk Enochs as a silly man/child, and The Session. On a more serious note there's Dirty Little Secret with a wonderfully controlled performance by Maggie Grant as a therapist determined to exercise power over her volatile patient.
Praise as well to others in the cast including Samm Hill, Bob Ebinger, Molly Leland, Julianna Robinson, Ryan Cross, Matthew Brenher, Tara Windley, and Natasha Charles Parker. Highly skilled direction is to be noted from both Grant and Bain. Set art design by Adam Hunter - a bold contemporary painting representing love in all of its wild splendor and torture - offers amusement.
Lovestruck is a well acted, finely directed, and intelligently written evening of mini-plays by the versatile Stamos, that will entertain you, make you laugh, shed a tear or two and even think a little; at the very least they will open up your mind and surely your heart.