BWW Reviews: THE TWILIGHT OF SCHLOMO Proves Redemption is Always Within Your Grasp
The World Premiere of Timothy McNeil's THE TWILIGHT OF SCHLOMO is being presented by the critically acclaimed Elephant Theatre Company through February 9. The drama explores how our simplest choices sometimes have far-reaching effects for those around us, and how redemption is always within your grasp.
The play centers around Richard (Jonathan Goldstein), a former stand-up comic who now struggles to stay afloat in a dingy, one-bedroom East Hollywood apartment. With his dreams of stardom finished, Richard now fills his days being stoned while working a dead end job selling wine. The only bright spot is his twice-a-week "friends with benefits" relationship with Galina (Vera Cherny and Kelly Hill share the role), a former stripper now studying for her master's degree at UCLA.
And now Richard's troubled past is catching up to him, causing him to face a deep mid-life crisis as his distant step-daughter RFK (Lilan Bowden) arrives unexpectedly with shocking news, and his bickering neighbors, Lydia and Jackson (Nikki McCauley and Danny Parker-Lopes) reveal dangerous secrets through his thin apartment walls. As those around him threaten his solitude, Richard uses weed , blow and acidic humor as armor, wrestling with his own personal truths while trying to discover who he still wants to be.
The strong characters in this play are the women as they have the ability to take charge of their lives much better than either of the men do. Bowden's RFK is struggling to deal with her mother's death by convincing herself she needs to convert to Judaism to find her way in life. This is a young woman moving forward despite all the setbacks she has faced in the past and Bowden shines in the role. Her gut-wrenching plea for her Popi to not kill himself with cocaine the same way her mother did will tear at your heartstrings. But it would be a good idea to speak a bit louder as it was often difficult to understand what Ms. Bowden was saying.
Galina (Vera Cherny the night I was there) is a Russian-born former stripper (and not a very good one, according to Richard who was once married to a great one) who is now using her brain to earn a master's degree at UCLA. She agrees to visit Richard twice a week for sex and a few bong hits, something that seems to be working for both of them, even though she loathes his dirty bathroom. (Thankfully we only hear about it and never see it.) But as Richard descends into drug abuse, Galina tells him she wants more and heads out for greener pastures. Cherny is the most heartwarming character in the play and the one you really want to see make something of her life. And as she walks out the door, you know she will never take another step backwards in her life.
Nikki McCauley plays the Earth Mother neighbor Lydia who just wants to take care of everyone and make everything better. But she is also a battered wife, something Richard is aware of through the paper-thin apartment walls but fails to do anything about it until it is too late. The highlight of the play will have you applauding when Lydia finally decides to leave her drug dealer husband and takes up arms against him when he refuses to accept it. Her strength finally gets Richard to realize it is time to turn his own life around.
But the show does belong to Jonathan Goldstein, whose Richard runs the gamut of emotions throughout the play as he shares stories of his two failed marriages, the story of how he got the name Schlomo from his Holocaust survivor parents, and his disappointment with the state of his life. When he finally redeems himself and learns to do what is best for someone else, we can only help the lesson will assist him in turning his life around. I believe with the help of his step-daughter, he will.
One observation on the night I saw the play was that most scenes seemed to drag on a bit with long pauses where none needed to be. I am not sure if it was directed by David Fofi that way or the actors were just a bit energy drained, but I do hope future performances will move the action along at a much quicker pace. And with the serious subject matter, the small bits of levity certainly worked well to alleviate the tension but they were too few and far between.
ALL THE DETAILS
Elephant Theatre Company presents the World Premiere of Timothy McNeil's THE TWILIGHT OF SCHLOMO on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 PM, through February 9th at The Elephant Space, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood, 90038
Tickets are $22.50 in advance, $25 at door and Previews are $15. For tickets go to plays411/schlomo or call 323.960.4442