BWW Reviews: DISCONNECTION - A Potent Message from an Ex-Scientologist

Disconnection/written by Allen Barton/directed by Joel Polis/Beverly Hills Playhouse/thru March 1, 2015

Powerful production of the world premiere of Disconnection written by Allen Barton, based on his own past experiences with Scientology. Barton presents various damaged characters who in their vulnerability 'find' this organization that audits them, rules their daily lives and convinces them to disconnect with all distractions (i.e., family, friends) in order to promote this "church's" cause.

Disconnection opens inexplicably with three actors listening on their headphones (and not reacting to) the recorded teachings of Oldman, the leader of this group. Did not figure out what was going on as the recorded lecture did not seem at all inspiring or thought-provoking as one might envision a brain-washing sermon (or even a pep talk) might be.

Disconnection really starts firing on all cylinders with the second scene with the combined talents of Bo Foxworth as Landon; the successful, but damaged lawyer wanting piano lessons and Dennis Nollette as Michel, the charismatic piano teacher. Foxworth deftly exposes his deep pain as the yet grieving widow. He still blames himself for his wife's death in their car crash four years ago. Landon thinks relearning/sharpening his piano skills will somehow bring back his dead wife. Nollette charms as the all wise, all insightful teacher with a unexpected sense of humor. If Disconnection's revised as a two-handler with Foxworth as Landon and Nollette as Michel, results would be stunning! Well, maybe a three character piece with the equally wonderful Carter Scott, as Tess Landon's estranged daughter, now a Staff reporting directly to the church's Chairman. Tess gets introduced as one of the privileged higher ups of the church and married to co-higher up Nick. When Tess finds she's pregnant, she decides to leave the church as no distractions (children) allowed amongst the Staff. Luke Cook convincingly essays the dutiful Staffer with more loyalty to the church than to his wife or expectant baby. Robert L. Hughes ably humanizes his demonized Oldman. In revealing his intent to kill himself, Oldman explains his original intentions were pure but something happened along the way that he could not stop it or himself. Now he has a 'Boy,' as his right hand man. One he describes as "clever without intellect." 'Boy' has grown up to be now called by all 'Chairman.' Everette Wallin frighteningly screams at the top of his lungs his uncomfortable confrontational scene with Scott's Tess. Surprised (maybe disappointed) the scene didn't get more violent than it did.

Joel Polis directs at a even clip with the best scenes between Foxworth and Nollette. Nice multifunctional set by Jeff McLaughlin. Barton provides the melodic, mood-inducing piano playing throughout. Disconnection was developed through Skylight Theatre Company's INKubator program.

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From This Author Gil Kaan