BWW Reviews: CALIFORNIAN LIVES, King's Head Theatre, April 22 2013

By: Apr. 23, 2013

Love can be fleeting or love can last a lifetime. It can take the form of companionship or a soulmate attachment. It can come and it can go - and it can even come back. Love gained and lost is the unifying theme behind Martin Foreman's three monologues, Californian Lives (at The King's Head until 26 May).

In Los Feliz, Robin Holden is all alpha-male wannabee, angry at his divorced wife, angry about his career prospects and angry about the person he has become - a classic American slob. He spies from his car, falls for and subsequently stalks (but not too obviously) a beautiful woman whom he succeeds in taking on a date - only to find that she has some half-truths to match his. Robin Holden convinces as a man with enough intelligence to be self-deprecating, but not enough to see that he has to settle some debts to the past before he can move to the future.

Ben and Joe's is the hangout for a group of ageing gay men, meeting every afternoon to chew the fat, watch old movies on the bar's TV and gaze at the 23-year-old resting actor serving up the G and Ts and margaritas. The acquisition of a young black boyfriend by one of the gang brings issues of race and motive into the open and divides friend from friend - forever. John Vernon tells his tale with wit and a sense of joy at the life he once had - and a sense of resignation that it was lost in such petty squabbles rooted in the stubborn prejudices of men who know better.

Sunset sees Carolyn Lister tell the tale of a marriage. Once all girlish infatutation, it soured as she turned to motherly duties, but was reborn as she discovered her identity as a woman and her husband got too old to chase anyone else. More hopeful than the other two narrators, Ms Lyster's warmth fills the cold space of imminent death with the vitality of life. She rounds off three splendidly understated, yet utterly convincing, portraits of love in California's emotional desert.

Director Emma King-Farlow has worked with the writer's adaptations of his own three short stories to get plenty of theatre into the texts. In a venue that is always intimate, placing the audience on three sides of each set makes every hesitation, every twitch, every wistful glance, all the more powerful - more impressive still in the hands of actors who know that when it comes to works like this, less is always more.