BWW Review: THE LONG GRAVEL ROAD: BUMPY, FULL OF EXAMINATION, REFLECTION, POIGNANT HUMOR & GEMS OF WISDOM at Theatre West
Abbott Alexander has created a very unique piece of theatre that is engaging, captivating, witty, uninhibited, entertaining, and thought-provoking. He re-enacts and mimes moments that flash into his mind from his past; a stream of consciousness rant, history lesson, inner conversation. Delusive, suggestive, connective, yet scattered; using quotes, phrases, name-dropping, references to all sorts of random topics and a lot of miming and physicality to illustrate his words; letting out humor, anger, astonishment, rage, annoyance, adoration, remorse, pride, goofiness, delight, admiration, astonishment, regret, humiliation... and I think you get the idea.
The Long Gravel Road is tailored after the French actor/director/theorist Artaud's famous radical manifesto on the metaphysical ' Mise en Scene.' There are times when he seems a bit insane and in a mind bubble all his own, but references to Leonard Cohen, Dobie Gillis, Helen Reddy, Ballet Russe, silly putty, Emmett Kelly, Jr., Blue Bonnet margarine, Harold & Maude, Kukla, Fran & Ollie, Abe Vigoda, Alfred E. Neuman, Charlie Tuna, Burl Ives, and making up lyrics to familiar tunes from the past, helps give us a glimpse inside our own selves.
He walks out on stage unassumingly, although it's apparent he is worked up about something. His arms are folded tightly in front of him and he's grasping his elbows firmly with his hands. He stands for a good moment, and then begins spouting random phrases, to himself it seems like, then yelling out to others we don't see, deeply involved in himself, and most certainly engrossed fully in every changing moment we experience with him. It is at this point he seems to be aware of us, in the audience and as he mimes it, says he came down that long gravel road behind him to pick up the morning newspaper.
Intermittently, as cues or imitations of a noise, or just because, a drummer off to the side of stage right uses carefully place sounds and drumbeats as a score throughout the performance. That would be Garrett Parks, also the musical director. It is a subtle addition to the style of the piece, as do the Lighting (Yancey Dunham) and the Graphics (Doug Haverty) enhance the different facets of this unique recitation.
For over an hour he is on stage and never stops his train of thought, except for pauses, but those are instantly filled with new thoughts about to spill out. He moves with the grace of a dancer, even when he is being silly, grotesque, solemn or angry. It's a lesson in reflection, evaluation, understanding, but yet bewilderment in a rapid-paced journey jumping around in time, sort of a puzzle that he finally finishes putting together, as he bends down, before exiting, very shakily, to pick up that newspaper and slowly, painfully make his way up that LGR...
Abbott Alexander is someone who commands presence on the stage. He makes you want to watch him, and it is a treat every moment he's up there, because you have no idea what he will do next, although for the actor performing this meticulously set monologue-dance of sorts, everything has been rehearsed until it has become a part of him. I see that in his work, and I encourage you to go see this outstanding performance, before it closes June 1st, 2019. Saturday nights only ~
For tickets, go to: http:/theatrewest.org
Written & Performed by Abbott Alexander
Original Sound Score/Musical Direction / Performed by Garrett Parks
Produced by Linda Pace and Pergola Productions
Photos Courtesy of Garry Kluger