Review: Sacred Fools Premiere Stunning PAST TIME in New Space at the Lillian

By: Feb. 22, 2016
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Past Time/by Padraic Duffy/directed by Jeremy Aldridge/Sacred Fools in their new space at the Lillian Theatre/through March 26

After a series of breakthrough plays such as Stoneface and Louis & Keely Live at the Sahara, which went on to larger venues and are still waiting in the wings for Broadway, the brilliantly innovative Sacred Fools Theatre has moved into the remodeled Lillian Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard. With the opening of this brand new space comes the world premiere of Padraic Duffy's Past Time, a wildly funny comedy about finding happiness and the beauty missing in one's life. The five-character ensemble are a marvel to watch under Jeremy Aldridge's smooth direction through March 26.

Make no mistake, when you see that French Stewart is on board, expect the unexpected, as his crazy comedic flair takes center stage, at least part of the time (see photo at top). When you paint, "you've gotta piss glitter and shit rainbows!" He plays Lou, an unhappy man, who wants to open a kiosque called Unicorns 'n Things. Unicorns were his wife's passion, and now that she is deceased, he tries to make them his and pulls in his friend James (Leon Russom) to help him and Dalilah, James' wife (Ruth Silveira), who runs a shop called Candles 'n Stuff right behind the kiosque. Dalilah feels sorry for Lou, but is not at all pleased that he will be disrupting her candle business. Chris (Josh Weber), James' and Dalilah's grandson is a dear, misguided young man in his twenties and still lives at home with them, as they serve in loco parentis. He is unlucky in love with a girl named Meredith (Julia Griswold) who would rather have a tooth pulled than date him. Sound like a motley crew? Yes, they are, but still winning in spite of the abnormal circumstances.

This is a kind of Moonstruck. Out of the blue, something hits all of the characters and makes them change in spite of themselves. Lou really wants his unicorn business to succeed despite the overwhelming odds that no one will care. He is willing to go to any extremes, to pull out all the stops to make things click. James and Delilah are at the age where they have lost that loving feeling between them, but when Chris asks James to role play and go on a date with Meredith posing as him - Chris, things take a bizarre turn for both couples. The older couple start to reminisce about the beautiful moments of their past and the younger couple see older age as carpe diem, a chance to grab onto one's happier memories and make every current moment count.

Playwright Padraic Duffy uses the image of the color wheel to great advantage. Lou sees the unique beauty in the unicorns and wants to use vibrant colors, for example, for the mane and hooves. Lou drives James crazy trying to teach him how to paint the little figurines with long feathery strokes. The whole idea of utilizing bright, unusual colors figures in as the symbol of change that they all so desperately need, to improve the quality of their lives. "Without colors, the past all blurs together." Dalilah's mistrust of the unicorns is fear, not really for her candle sales, but for herself; she's afraid to change, to let go.

Under Aldridge's steady, even pacing and fluid staging, the ensemble are a dream team. Stewart is so good at pushing down, concealing Lou's grief. His outbursts and crazed efforts belie a terribly lonely man who wishes to recapture the stimulation of his wife. He is so effective at the end where he gives a unicorn to Meredith and asks that she pass on the relevance of the colors to her mate. Russom, through a gruff exterior, shows quite clearly and brilliantly how James once had an interior spark of fancy and love, bringing out the true pussycat in him. Silveira doesn't overdo anything, and that is the beauty of her acting style. Her frustrations with James and their pitiful existence together is totally pulled in, but she makes us feel her immense pain. Weber is a real find as Chris. His look, his demeanor are unique and he brings a sweetness and sincerity to the man, not always easy to see in a tall, gawky lad...but he achieves it. Griswold is completely real, blase as Meredith, and it is truly lovely to see how she transforms her beliefs when James works his magic while role-playing Chris. The whole concept of role playing and going into the closet for costumes, etc is a delicious ode to all things theatrical. Duffy alludes to this little by little throughout, and it does indeed work magic over all the characters. There's a true suspension of disbelief, where relationships are indeed theatre.

Go see Past Time! It is a sweet, lovely piece that really makes you care about people and that they find true happiness. A triple threat production: great writing, great direction, great acting! Bravo!


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