Review: U.S. Premiere of BEFORE Brings Olivier Award-Winners Pat Kinevane and Fishamble Back to the Odyssey Theatre
Irish playwright and performance artist Pat Kinevane calls the beautiful town of Cobh in County Cork his hometown, which sits on the second largest natural harbor in the world and was the last port of the Titanic. Now residing in Dublin, a city that feels like a town to him for the past 30 years, certainly influenced his latest one-man play BEFORE, with its U.S. premiere now taking place at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in West L.A. through December 8.
From the moment you enter the theater, it's obvious something dramatic is about to take place with its black walls and set pieces begging for lights and color to awaken the spirit and envelop the misty atmosphere within its walls. And following the initial blackout, Kinevane explodes with never-ending energy during his 90-minute physical performance piece about love, loss, and parental responsibilities in the face of overwhelming odds.
BEFORE is a new play with much music, influenced by the golden era of Hollywood musicals with a soundtrack recorded by Ireland's National Concert Orchestra. Kinevane introduces himself as Pontius, "like the Pilot" he quips, a blue-collar Irishman who has traveled to Dublin on a very personal journey. But first he begins his physical storytelling as a shy young man, who had the extreme good fortune to meet a rather loose woman in a bar "when I was totally pissed" and spent an extraordinary night rolling around on and popping bubble wrap for hours with her, doing things he never imagined could be done with a woman. Then in the morning she was gone. And it was years until he discovered his daughter had been born nine months later.
Then we are inside Clery's of Dublin, on the very day this iconic department store shuts for good, as Pontius is trying to choose a gift for his estranged daughter, whom he hasn't seen for almost 20 years and will meet in an hour. Thought movement, singing, all forms of dancing from modern to tap, sounds effects, and a wonderful background score, this father's journey is both beautiful and strange, from the isolation of his Midlands home, to the madness of O'Connell Street as Kinevane examines the need for or absence of love, parental responsibility, and the challenges life throws at us when we are making other plans.
With such a dark space, almost completely black other than Kinevane's skin and various white props he uses for emphasis, extraordinary lighting effects designed by Kinevane, director Jim Culleton and Katelan Braymer, have been added with an assortment of hues to accentuate emotional settings and moods. For instance, when Pontius lovingly describes his baby daughter's "Neptune eyes," Kinevane is bathed in blue light. But the most extraordinary effect took place in total darkness when he picked up two large cell phones, focusing their bright white light on his face as he spoke about deeply hurtful situations and heartfelt emotions, making it seem as if we were listening to a ghost reflecting on his life. And perhaps we were...
BEFORE, written and performed by Pat Kinevane, has been directed by Jim Culleton to dramatically showcase Kinevane's remarkable physical abilities of storytelling. I encourage you to sit back and allow yourself to be enveloped in the wonder of the visual exploration of life, love and the paths we choose to follow. The production was choreographed by Emma O'Kane with music composed by Denis Clohessy and recorded by the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Cathal Synnott, and features the voices of Clelia Murphy as the Announcer, Kez Kinevane as the Guard, and Alex Sharpe as Aster, Pontius' daughter.
Performances continue on Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm through December 8 at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025.Tickets run $20-$30, with $10 tickets available on Friday, Nov. 29; and Thursday, Dec. 5. Additional discounted tickets available at select performances for seniors, students and patrons under 30; call theater at (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 for details. Tickets and more show information is available at www.OdysseyTheatre.com
Photo credit: Patrick Redmond and Maria Falconer