BWW Review: CONSTANTINOPLE at Vista Players - Secret Rose Theatre
"...And while it's an artistic response to a colossal calamity in Armenian history...", says author/director Aram Kouyoumdjian, "...the Genocide of 1,5000,000 of my ancestors is not a tale of mourning or lament. It is a tale of victimhood. Its characters are all fighters-literally and metaphorically. So it's a tale of resilience and resistance".
And fight, these characters do. For about ¾ of the show, the stakes are high and the acting is solid and personal! The beginning scene or two are a tad stiff and slow, but once everyone warmed up, the show sailed like a battleship...full-force.
In this world premier...the plot unfolds as the editor of a feminist journal (the masterful Jade Hykush) and a guerrilla fighter (the exhilarating Travis Laughlin) coordinate missions for the recovery of women and children abducted during the genocide. Crossing into Armenia, to transport supplies and weaponry, has become nearly impossible and their idealism is challenged as the political situation around them takes a darker turn. The "new girls" of this era begin setting their sights on a life beyond the confines of the city, rather than a life of oppression within it. An entire nation teeters on the brink of displacement.
Laughlin and Hykush banter back and forth with ease and strength in their scenes and it seems that Hykush is at her best with Laughlin as her partner. But when Robert Walters is added into the mix, with his personal and emotional interpretation of bisexual poet Shenian, you have a menage-a-toi of majestic scene work.
Kouyoumdjian tells the story with a new voice. A modern voice. Today's voice. The language is not dated to fit early 1900's style, however the set, costumes, and some of the blocking appeared to be stylized to reflect that era. A brilliant piece of staging utilizes the transitions between the scenes. With original music composed by Ara Dabandjian and Ken Press, the opportunity to continue the story with emotion so high or prominent that the dialogue would not suffice was executed. It was this reviewer's favorite moments in the production.
Rounding out the cast are the tour de force performances of Eva Abramian, a stalwardly solid portrayal of rich and sadistic paternal figure (Parsegh) by Jonathan Fishman, the vivacious Kristin Mothersbaugh, and the adorably quirky Luc Rosenthal.
"Constantinople" continues through November 2, 2019 playing 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 3pm Sundays at the Secret Rose Theatre: 11246 W. Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. Running time is only 90 minutes with no intermission. For tickets: http://www.itsmyseat.com/constantinople/