There are plays that make you cringe, there are plays that make you laugh, there are plays that confuse you utterly and make you feel like an idiot for not understanding it and there are plays that should just never have been written. There are also plays, that make you think about yourself, the life you led and the friends you lost along the way, all the while being presented by a stellar cast in a very well written and directed performance. “The Closeness of the Horizon” falls into that last category. Currently in its world premiere run, the Richard Martin Hirsch play is being presented by CoffeeHouse Productions at The Odyssey Theatre until June 24th.
Hirsch’s play opens with Paul (Bruce Nozick) reluctantly getting ready for his high school friend’s memorial service. Once he throws his tie away and yells that he is not going, a play unfolds that travels back and forth through Paul’s life tracing his friendship with the deceased Gary (Daniel Kash), revealing cracks and flaws and answers to many of Paul’s distressed questions. The content is very real, the story very familiar to anyone years beyond high school and it is told in a very convincing, realistic way.
Without a flaw in the cast, each character comes to life and could easily be someone you know. Kash’s performance as the dying Gary is so convincing you almost want to jump out of your seat and help him. Kash’s ability to be true to the character throughout the various stages of his life takes immense strength and talent. Nissa (Mandy June Turpin), who is distraught and yet relieved by her husband’s passing, is played to heartbreaking and realistic nuance. Her facial expressions and movement fill in what the dialogue leaves up for speculation. Her performance is easily matched by that of Nozick, whose Paul is angry, sad and confused by Gary’s passing. He is at a point in his life where he is no longer sure of anything. The entire cast is stellar and more importantly truthful. They make fabulous choices in presenting the teenage versions of themselves as well as the present day, grown-up and worn out versions of themselves. Their soul searching performances evoke audible reactions from the audience, upset, surprised or embarrassed for the characters by the situations they are in. The ability to do this is an extreme talent.
The cast is very experienced and they work well together. Because of this the theatre disappears and it is as if you are peaking in on an actual man’s life, which is an effect extremely hard to do in live theatre. The direction of this production has a lot to do with this achieved effect. Director Darin Anthony was with this piece from early on and the heart he must have for the material shines through in this production. Every part of the presentation fits the piece perfectly.
Now, to remain true to my tactics I would usually put in a few comments on how this show could improve, but honestly with it only being the second week of a month long run I think this production will grow by itself. Any tweaking that shall be done I will leave up to Hirsch and Anthony. This might very well by my favorite new work that I have seen this year and that is a big statement. If you have any chance to head over to The Odyssey Theatre before June 24th then by all means do it, I have a feeling that you will thoroughly enjoy this piece. (Published May 25, 2012 by mickala)
CRITIC'S PICK, LAWeekly... GO! THE CLOSENESS OF THE HORIZON The early scenes of playwright Richard Martin Hirsch's elegantly melancholic drama take place in 1969, as a trio of high school pals hit the road on a youthful cross-country journey. Forty years on, one of the pals, sporting goods magnate Paul (Bruce Nozick), is called to the bedside of his estranged former pal G. (Daniel Kash), who is dying from a stroke. As the reunion unfolds, the elaborate mystery of why the three childhood friends drifted apart gradually is revealed. Events are shown in flashback and in meandering order, and incidents that at first seem astonishingly unimportant in one period of time turn out to mean something different when filtered through time's lens. Director Darin Anthony's beautifully nuanced production of the play, which engrossingly captures the emotions underlying midlife masculinity, is full of mature humor that shifts suddenly into scathing sadness and the performances possess a sense of powerfully truthful detail. Nozick's neurotic, middle-aged businessman's realization that disappointment is often the result of youthful hope and ambition is a deft turn. Also laudable are Kash and Mandy June Turpin as G.'s wife, whose performance as a character aging from 19 to middle age is beautifully rendered. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through June 24. (323) 960-1054, plays411.com/horizon. (Paul Birchall)
CRITIC'S PICK, StageSceneLA...
"WOW !"...“I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five-and-dime, played it till my fingers bled, was the summer of ’69.”
What would contemporary fiction, drama, music, and art be had the summer of 1969 never happened? Bryan Adams would never have written “Summer Of 69,” nor would Robert Downey Jr. have starred in the movie 1969, nor would playwright Damon Chua have written his recent dramatic fantasy 1969: A Fantastical Odyssey Through The American Mindscape. Summer of ’69 brought us the Stonewall Riots, the release of The Who’s Tommy and Midnight Cowboy, Ted Kennedy’s car crash at Chappaquiddick, the three-day event that was Woodstock, the beginning of the trial of the Chicago 8, and most memorably, the night Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.
For playwright Richard Martin Hirsch, Summer of ‘69 was the year he turned 19, the year his alma mater Palisades High School won the Los Angeles City High School Basketball Championship, and the year he and his two best friends from Pali High traveled across the country in a VW bus.
Three years ago one of these friends died, a friend Hirsch had been long out of touch with, and one whose death set the Scenie-winning author of The Quality Of Life (and London’s Scars, The Monkey Jar, and The Concept Of Remainders) to thinking about the nature of friendship, and about how and why the best of friends can end up like ships who just happened to pass in the summer of ’69.
The result of all this is Hirsch’s latest drama, The Closeness Of The Horizon, one of his best works to date and one certain to send anyone of average L.A. theatergoing age on his or her own nostalgic journey back to that oh-so significant summer. (It certainly did this reviewer, who was born the same year as Hirsch.)
Flashing back from its “present” in the year 1995 to that youthful summer twenty-six years earlier, The Closeness Of The Horizon focuses primarily on Hirsch stand-in Paul (Bruce Nozick), married for the past twenty or so years to Annie (Shauna Bloom), but still pining a bit for Nissa (Mandy June Turpin), with whom he once shared a single kiss that he still can’t unstick from his mind. Nissa was then the girlfriend of his buddy G (Daniel Kash), and has recently become his widow, G having succumbed to a brain tumor following years during which he and Paul had gotten rather inexplicably out of touch. Completing the trio of high school friends is Stein (David Starzyk), who parlayed his skills on the basketball court into a successful professional career.
Flashing back and forth in time from that roadtrip summer to the weeks preceding and following G’s death, and featuring fantasy sequences in which several of the characters appear in Neil Armstrong astronaut garb to palaver with Paul, The Closeness Of The Horizon is part nostalgia, part soap opera, part mystery, and part commentary on life, elements which add up to an entertaining, thought-provoking evening of theater.
Memories take us back to those three 19-year-olds on the road in their VW van and camping out under the stars on that moonwalk night. Another flashback shows us that illicit kiss, and provides us with a significant bit of information that Paul himself has remained blissfully unaware of over the past sixteen years. There’s also an uncomfortable reunion between our still hale-and-hearty hero and a wheelchair-bound G, rendered virtually paralyzed and mute by brain surgery, and a later meeting with G’s widow (and Paul’s onetime crush). And throughout it all remains the question posed by Hirsch in his program note: Why have some of the friends he has cared about most seemed to have drifted away from him, and with such apparent effortlessness?
As is the case with any World Premiere production, The Closeness Of The Horizon ends up a collaborative effort, and one that benefits immensely from its team of co-creators, beginning with director Darin Anthony, who once again elicits all-around terrific performances from some of L.A.’s finest actors. Scenic designer Tom Buderwitz’s fluid, phantasmagoric set design transports us back and forth in time and from place to place, with a special tip of the hat to his non-literal VW bus, and to a desert sequence in which a particularly vivid moon on the horizon morphs into planet earth to breathtaking effect, particularly as lit by Leigh Allen with accustomed finesse. Sound designer Bob Blackburn’s effects are mood-enhancing, and the same can be said for his soundtrack of nostalgia-inducing ’69 hits, including “Sugar, Sugar,” “My Cherie Amour,” and most significantly “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” Costume designer Sherry Linnell’s bevy of character-appropriate outfits are winners too.
The roles of Paul, Stein, G, Annie, and Nissa have been cast to appear more or less the characters’ ages circa 1995, letting our imagination airbrush them for flashback sequences. Nozick’s powerful, introspective performance as Paul is the production’s lynchpin, with dynamic support provided by Starzyk and Kash. Though at first I found the latter’s far more youthful appearance disconcerting for a character supposedly the same age as his costars, it later occurred to me that this may have been a conscious choice, reflective of the fact that Paul has remained in contact with Stein over the years, but not with G the past decade and a half. The women do memorable work as well, both Turpin’s not-too-grieving widow and the always marvelous Bloom’s not-too-contented wife.
One of our finest Los Angeles playwrights, Richard Martin Hirsch is also one of the least easily pigeonholed, as each new work reveals an unexpected something up the writer’s sleeve. In The Closeness Of The Horizon, Hirsch has taken real-life events, both those shared with his fellow Boomers and those of a more personal nature, and created a work of fiction that resonates with the ring of truth. (Steven Stanley)
The Car Play: BEFORE WE GO HOME Moving Artsbrings The Car Plays: LA Stories back to the parking lot cum stage at REDCAT for this year's RADAR LA festival. Rather than creating the impression of a car on a stage, Car Plays uses real cars as scaled-down mini-theatres that are at times devoid of the fourth wall. After receiving an usher-issued citation, audiences of two move from car to car to watch ten-minute scenes from the back seats of five different cars. Each car holds two actors with a new, memorable only-in-LA scene under the direction of a different director. Each play features sound direction and skilled performers, but the most striking feature of Car Plays is the perspective and reaction altering intimacy created by the close proximity and shared space of the actors. Under the direction of Darin Anthony, Michael Shutt and DJ Harner give a moving, tear jerking performance in Richard Martin Hirsch's "Before We Go Home" car play scene that lets its audience eavesdrop on a couple's first moments after euthanizing their beloved pet. The Car Plays is playing through June 18 at REDCAT.
CRITIC'S PICK! WOW!
Two scarred Londoners take center stage in the current-as-today’s-headlines London’s Scars. Richard Martin Hirsch has constructed a gripping drama that is both personal and political. Written with two of his muses (Meredith Bishop and Imelda Corcoran) in mind for the leading roles, London’s Scars not only provides the actresses with terrific, complex roles to sink their teeth into, but audiences with plenty to think and talk about. Supporting performances couldn’t be better. None of this could have been possible without a director the caliber of Darin Anthony, aided and abetted by some of the best designers in town. Showcasing Hirsch’s ability to create riveting, substantive drama and with a director and cast that simply could not be better, London’s Scars makes for fascinating, thought-provoking contemporary theater well worth seeing. ...StageScene LA
*** “The preshow announcement in the style of the London Underground's famous "mind the gap" admonition takes us to Thurloe Square, the site of a recent bus bombing in the world premiere of Richard Martin Hirsch's latest work. The bombing is discussed by psychologists Bronwyn (Imelda Corcoran) and Margaret (Ann Noble); the former is an art therapist and becomes saddled with Mary (Meredith Bishop), a young woman who witnessed the tragedy and is consequently a person of interest to MI5 field agent Dowd (Rob Nagle). In their sessions, Mary is initially reticent, responding only with book quotations. As Bronwyn uses art to delve into Mary's psyche, however, Mary opens up, revealing her occupation as a call girl and her association with Habib (Ammar Ramzi), the Pakistani man thought to be responsible for the bombing. Hirsch's ear for the British idiom, especially London slang, is undeniable, and his characters are fascinating -- especially the tortured souls of Mary and Habib.”
“Director Darin Anthony employs creative staging of the numerous flashbacks and movements in space and time, aided by Christie Wright's nimble lighting, Stephen Gifford's flexible set, and Bill Froggatt's soundscape of London calling. The solid cast is punctuated by standouts Nagle, notable for his chameleonic shifts in playing two other minor characters as well, and Bishop, whose tortured intensity is palpable.” ...LA WEEKLY (Mayank Keshaviah)
The Quality of Light
The Quality of Light concerns bereaved divorcée Claire (the affecting D.J. Harner) and raffish Jack (Patrick Rafferty, a find), 10 years her junior, who meet at a hotel overlooking the Cote d'Azur. The scenario echoes Rumer Godden, David Lean, Tennessee Williams and "Enchanted April," yet by framing his narrative with similes of fine art, Hirsch avoids genre clichés and maintains intrigue.The accomplished script draws beautiful work from director Jo Black-Jacob, who keeps bright and dark in balance, aided by some adept designers. …Los Angeles Times Critic's Pick
Richard Martin Hirsch's exquisitely written play was the winner of last year's Long Beach Playhouse New Works Festival. As such, this intimate portrait of two badly wounded people is receiving a much deserved world premiere under the insightful direction of Jo Black-Jacob. A brilliant tapestry of life interwoven with art, Hirsch's drama is set in the hills above Côte d'Azur, where the light has attracted artists for centuries.
…Backstage West Critic's Pick
Snappily directed by Jo Black-Jacob, Hirsch’s play is witty and refreshingly literate.
…LA Weekly GO - Critic's Pick
Hirsch maintains a remarkable balance between his spellbinding story, the compelling artist’s viewpoint, and the inherent humor which resides in the meeting of two people whose desires are not quite in sync.
…Long Beach Signal Tribune Critic's Pick
A silly romp; an all-female cast send-up of detective stories that blazes by so fast that the bad jokes are quickly replaced with good ones. This tale...has laughs galore, and Hirsch knows how to construct goofy narration for Jackie Maruschak as Tuesday Monday.
PICKGO Ably directed by Howard Teichman, Richard Martin Hirsch’s absorbing drama explores the tangled psyche of a middle-aged Jewish writer at a personal and epistemological crossroads. Michael Oberlander delivers an intensely fervid performance as Elijah Stone (nee Steinberg, a significant detail), an award-winning author and satirist who sabotages his marriage to his beautiful gentile, journalist wife, Laurel (Imelda Corcoran), by straying into the arms of a younger Jewish housefrau, Shaina (Meredith Bishop). While the triangle serves as a framework for the drama, the play (which shifts from past to present) goes well beyond portraying the liaison to delve into matters of faith, ethnic identity and what an artist sometimes thinkshe needs to do to feed creative inspiration.
...L A Weekly Critic's Pick
"An intellectual effusion"..."effulgent"..."Hirsch's first-act plot twist works neatly."
When a writer writes about a writer, the going can get a bit tricky. No matter how far removed the writer character is from the writer, the proceedings can seem depressingly self-referential.
It's not that Richard Martin Hirsch's new play, "Atonement," now at Theatre 40, doesn't cast a wider net. Certainly, National Book Award-winning author Elijah Stone (Michael Oberlander) has other major issues to cope with other than his obsessive preoccupation with his career. There's his troubled marriage to Laurel (Imelda Corcoran) and his all-consuming affair with Shaina (Meredith Bishop). Then there's that mysterious older woman, Faye (Susan Morgenstern), who engages Elijah in philosophical discussions of an uncomfortably challenging ilk. Chiefly, there's Elijah's complete rejection of his Jewish heritage, a knee-jerk contempt for all things spiritual that will take an unexpected toll.
The action takes place in Elijah's mind and flashes back over the course of 12 years. The piece is extremely talky, sometimes mesmerizingly so, a rich intellectual effusion that addresses far-flung issues of sin and faith and loss and salvation.
Roy Arias Theatre Center, 300 W. 43rd St. (5th floor) Equity showcase (closed May 4, 2008)
Review by Byrne Harrison
The final evening of Emerging Artists' Spring EATFest features five very diverse short plays.Without a doubt the strongest production of the evening, and along with Love, Me (Margaret) in Series B, one of the strongest two plays in the festival, is the touching and nontraditionally romantic Fast Light and Brilliant.Set on a balcony outside a hotel where a conference is taking place, the play features Carrie Tillis as a woman just coming out of a divorce and Roberto Terrell Milner as the man she flirted with, then suddenly pulled away from.Playwright Richard Martin Hirsch has written a charming play about things people want from relationships and the realities of what they get.Deftly directed by Ian Streicher who allows the play to slowly unfold, it's the highlight of the evening and features marvelous acting by Tillis and Milner.