Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: Powerfully Passionate HIT THE WALL Pulls No Punches

HIT THE WALL/by Ike Holter/directed by Ken Sawyer/Los Angeles LGBT Center's Davidson/Valentini Theatre/thru October 26, 2015

The West Coast premiere of Ike Holter's HIT THE WALL vividly illustrates what might have happened that fateful night in 1969 when Stonewall became the flashpoint for what many consider the start of the gay liberation movement. With director Ken Sawyer's inventive staging, the audience becomes almost fully immersed in the play's actions. The stage seems to be every available space where an audience member's not physically sitting.

The basic historical facts HIT THE WALL's based on revolve around the police raid of the Stonewall Inn June 28, 1969. Unlike previous raids, the bar patrons did not cooperate and with more spectators gathering outside the Stonewall, everything and everyone got out of control.

Holter has readily created realistic, sympathetic characters (fictionalized based on factual descriptions) allowing you to experience this seminal time through their eyes. This talented cast make you feel every diss, every compliment, every derogatory insult, every physical blow; as if they were all directed at you, or at least someone you might know.

Two front stoop-sitting lay-abouts Tano and Mika hang out all day long dissing all the passerbys. Roland Ruiz and Blake Young-Fountain colorfully express Tano and Mika's tight, so in-sync friendship flawlessly. They complete each other's lines, synchronize each other's finger snaps, and cover each other's backs. In later scenes, Ruiz and Young-Fountain actually reveal their counterparts' deeper emotions buried way underneath their street facades. But no one shares their turf. Not the wide-eyed innocent Newbie totally lost in the Village, or the crusading Roberta always ready to speak atop her soapbox, or even Peg, the just pickpocketed lesbian pleading for some help.

Jason Caceres effortlessly embodies Newbie as a youngster so unsure of his self, his capabilities or his sexual needs. But at the appropriate moment of this significant night, Caceres' Newbie matures quite admirably.

Shoniqua Shandai instills her fiery portrayal of Roberta with all the high energy enthusiasm a struggling W.I.L.D. activist requires. Of course, when Roberta finally gets someone to listen to her appeals, Shandai's softer side and sweet smile come out.

Charlotte Gulezian's simply perfect as Peg, the lesbian with the lost soul and stolen wallet. Gulezian easily communicates all of Peg's frustrations of being out of a job, soon to be evicted, and long disowned by her family. But Gulezian's also most joyous in her brief, but adorable flirtation with Roberta. Nice, the two of them!

Holter chooses Carson, the drag queen, as the catalyst for that night of June 28. Mourning the death of her idol Judy Garland, Carson vows not to take her dress off until the end of her day of bereavement. Matthew Hancock most convincingly endows his Carson with the gravitas, the balls, the total commitment and believability of a 1960s closeted transvestite. Carson, finally having taken enough abuse from everyone, stands up against the arresting officers. Donnie Smith spars so well with Hancock as the arresting Cop. Their scenes together (as well as Smith's with Gulezian) -- just simply brutal.

Adam Silver charms as the conscientious objector Cliff who's very attracted to Carson. Another cute like-at-first-sight.

Kristina Johnson revels as Madeline, a privileged above-it-all Greenwich Village bitch, but gets an unplanned opportunity to exhibit Madeline's humanity-with-conditions while helping her sister Peg. Madeline's more than willing to financially aid and welcome Peg back into the familyfold, if only Peg would agree to turn off her feelings for girls. Bravo to Johnson for making Madeline more than a one-dimensional character you need to completely hate.

Also more than one-dimensional, Burt Grinstead well plays his privileged A-Gay character as unsympathetic as possible. Seems he only thinks with his head, the one between his legs.

The nightclub dance vibe receives ample support from the tuneful trio of Johanna Chase on guitar, Jennifer Lin on keyboards and Nicole Marcus on drums and percussion; playing original compositions of Anna Waronker and The Go-Go's Charlotte Caffey.

HIT THE WALL effectively and entertainingly reminds that, that night at Stonewall should be a night never to be forgotten.

Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories   Shows

From This Author Gil Kaan