BWW Reviews: See the Intellectually Challenging THE HARRY AND SAM DIALOGUES During the Hollywood Fringe Festival

Harry (Tyler Bremer) and Sam (Scotty Tran) are old friends who like to pass the time posing outlandish questions to one another. "If ya had the choice would ya rather love a woman whose top half was a fish and whose bottom half was a woman or a woman whose top half was a woman and whose bottom half was a fish?" Harry asks. "Good question," responds Sam.

Other topics range from "Who built the Pyramids?" to "Where is Jimmy Hoffa?" Harry complains that his wife says he talks too much and is too wrapped up, to which Sam replies "Like a gift?" "Why is reincarnation named after a flower? Is it because you are pushing up daisies?" "How can you believe in God and not Heaver?" And so goes the banter from one unrelated topic to the next, intellectually engaging the audience throughout the show.

The questions are off the wall, but they slowly reveal the two men's characters, and allow them to take stock of each other while avoiding mundane, but important, life matters. These life matters are woven into their interchanges-hints about their lives apart from one another.

Harry and his wife, Marge, are having troubles which he freely share, while Sam is wrapped up in New Age books and tries to dispense their philosophy to enhance the dialogues. But when Harry finds one of Sam's books in Marge's possession, he realizes Sam is having an affair with Marge. Sam apologizes and tries to explain, but the event drives them apart and they do not speak for a time. The two are incomplete without each other however, and the incident forces Harry to reconsider his chosen form of communication (or lack thereof) and to work on his marriage and salvage it.

In the final scene, an older Harry (Richard Rodriquez) and older Sam (Jeff Gilbank) meet by chance in their favorite bar and reconcile, with Harry using telling Sam you don't throw away years of friendship or marriage because of one mistake.

What makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival production directed by Matthew D. Fauls so intellectually challenging is the double casting of the young Harry and Sam along with the older Harry and Sam who remain onstage together through most of the show. The older Harry and Sam are separated by chalk lines on the floor of the stage, the two older men at the sides with the younger men doing all the talking center stage. The older men add sound effects with each of them writing one word in chalk during scene breaks. Their interesting word choices often went along with the scenes, but at other times appeared to just be off-the-wall words. For awhile they had me thinking they represented the internal mind working inside each of the men rather than the men themselves.

I am a huge fan of theatre that gets you thinking and questioning the experience, characters and subject matter presented. And I find myself, even after so many hours, still thinking about this fine production and just what reality was really being presented. I challenge you to do the same after seeing this brilliant production.

THE HARRY AND SAM DIALOGUES by Karen Ellison, presented during the Hollywood Fringe Festival by Red Soil Theater Company, directed by Matthew D. Fauls. Theatre Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Hollywood, CA 90038. Performances continue through June 29, tickets are $12. Running time is one hour. For tix and performance schedule, visit www.hff13.org/1090



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