David Mamet's "Edmond" is back in town, newly opened at the Powerhouse in Santa Monica.
"It's about a man who discovers he's a racist," said first-time director Lionel Mark Smith, who was one of the play's original cast members in Chicago. "Edmond is Everyman. He's afraid of blacks, homosexuals and sex. Then one night he goes on an odyssey and confronts all those things. He ends up in jail--but finds he's OK, comfortable in a situation that would appall anyone else."
The actor (whose relationship with Mamet dates back 15 years to their work at Chicago's Goodman Theatre) has long been trying to revive this piece. "There have been several productions done outside David's people," he sniffed. "They do not know Mamet-ese. In his (1984 Odyssey) production, Ron Sossi had neon, blood on knives, music, lots of overacting. I missed the poetry and rhythm of David's work. The way we do it, I think the words will smack you in the face."
Smith, who appeared last year in Mamet's film "Things Change" and will have a role in his upcoming "Homicide," hopes his 20-member Buffalo Theatre Company (named in honor of Mamet's "American Buffalo") can revive the energy of Chicago theater in the early '70s. "David gave me $1,500 two years ago when I first tried to do 'Edmond,' " Smith noted. "He has totally volunteered his services. He wants to see it done, have a group here he can send his work to."
FIT TO PRINT: "The Front Page" meets "Blue Velvet" is the way actress/co-producer Patricia Heaton describes Quincy Long's "Johnstown Vindicator," a newspaper-set dark comedy opening Saturday at Theatre/Theater in Hollywood. Jon Korkes directs.
"A murder happens in Johnstown," said Heaton, "Reverend Masseman gets shot. It throws the paper into an uproar. The editor, Vern, is on a tear to get the story. His mother--their relationship is a tiny bit Oedipal--is feeding him information about the murder. She knows everything and everybody." Other characters are an alcoholic named Hump, assistant editor Howard, reporter Janet and Heaton's character Pepper, who writes the paper's love column. "Pepper," she said bluntly, "is a pain in the butt."
Heaton, who originated her role in the 1987 New York staging, feels she has nearly lived the play. "The playwright is from Ohio; it's loosely based on his experiences there," she said. "I'm also from Ohio. My father and brother are journalists. I was a journalism major and worked at People Magazine." Her co-producers also have journalism in their pasts. And Korkes appeared in the newspaper-themed films "The Front Page" and "Between the Lines." "So you could say we know our subject."
CRITICAL CROSSFIRE: Tom Stoppard's modern-day spy tale, "Hapgood," is playing at the Doolittle Theatre as part of the Ahmanson season. Peter Wood directs Judy Davis, Roger Rees, Richard Lawson, James Lancaster, Simon Jones, Andrew Laisser, Morgan Strickland, Bryan Torfeh, Tim Donoghue and Chris Demetral.
Said The Times' Sylvie Drake: "The constant uncertainty of this script keeps it alive. But Stoppard may have carried the inventiveness too far in this piece. All that stands between 'Hapgood' and disaster is the author's brilliance, and that's not always enough."
Newsweek's David Ansen credited Davis' "passionate presence . . . But there is another kind of passion to be found in Stoppard's quicksilver wordplay, in his brain-twisting, rug-pulling intellectual sleight of hand. As the audience tumbles through 'Hapgood's' delicious twists and turns, the cerebral free fall can be exhilarating."
In the Daily News, Tom Jacobs wrote: "It's difficult to dismiss a play with this much substance, especially one that deals with one of the most important and interesting ideas of our era: that science is starting to come to the same conclusions that Eastern religions have known all along . . . But stating ideas is not the same thing as successfully dramatizing them."
From the Herald Examiner's Richard Stayton: "For all its formulaic beauty and awesome talk, the ultimate result is less mystery and more confusion . . . a distant, cold, overly complex formula with melodramatic pretensions. 'Hapgood' has been reworked since its London premiere last year, but it remains a laboratory experiment."
In Daily Variety, Tim Gray huffed: " 'Hapgood' Hap\o7 bad\f7 . There's a fine line between tantalizing and frustrating an audience, and Tom Stoppard has crossed it with a vengeance. Ostensibly a philosophic/comic spy thriller, (the play is an) impenetrable, nearly three-hour talk fest."
Said Drama-Logue's Polly Warfield: "A dense complexity and elitism of tone, a certain note of condescension, may off-put. It's keep up or get lost. Stoppard brooks no laggards or dullards. Pay attention, and even then we won't know what's happening."
From Thomas O'Connor in the Orange County Register: "Stoppard has constructed a delicate, intricate, coolly witty dramatic concerto on the nature of duality . . . The British writer has managed--on paper, at least--to make some very abstruse meditations resonant and affecting. But Stoppard's theatrical goods have been battered in transit from London to Hollywood."