Intense, personal energy ignites the raw political statement at the center of "In the Heart of America" at the Knightsbridge Theatre. By embedding antiwar polemic in sharply observed poetry, Naomi Wallace's surreal Gulf War drama draws unsettling parallels between past and present.
Wallace ("One Flea Spare") is a distinctive stylist, and "In the Heart of America," which premiered in London in 1994, has style to burn. Set in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm, the narrative concerns two soldiers: Kentucky-born river boy Craver Perry (Geoffrey Hillback) and Remzi Saboura (Rafael Kalichstein), the Arab American comrade who didn't return from Iraq.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday February 01, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
'Tip-Toes': A review of "Tip-Toes" in Friday's Calendar section said the Gershwin musical had not been revived since 1925. In fact, a production of the musical was performed at the Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut in 1978 and later at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Why he didn't is what Remzi's sister Fairouz (Samara Harris) seeks to uncover, a quest set against flashbacks to the Sabouras' Atlanta childhood while tracing Craver and Remzi's relationship amid sand and carnage. Woven throughout are Lue Ming (Tria Xiong), the spirit of bereaved Vietnam, and Boxler (Bruce Cronander), a gonzo officer possessed by Lt. William Calley.
The My Lai reference is the least subtle of Wallace's metaphors, yet the analogy between eras holds firm, and director Jamil Chokachi and his cast pull it forward into now. Hillback and Kalichstein make an outstanding pair, fearless, unforced and touching. Harris exudes striking sensitivity, and Xiong and Cronander dive headlong into their savage archetypes.
Chokachi doesn't always keep tempos and transitions apace with Wallace's tonal swirl, which creates confusion at times. The staging, with Joseph Stachura's lighting the chief source of atmosphere, is a shade too stark, and the final video of casualty statistics almost overstresses the moral. Yet "In the Heart of America" is impressive, as humanistic as it is provocative, and its committed players pack an emotional punch that counters occasional didactics.
-- David C. Nichols
"In the Heart of America," Knightsbridge Theatre Los Angeles, 1944 Riverside Drive, L.A. 8 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 11. Adult audiences. $25. (323) 667-0955. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
'Kabara Sol' tackles good, evil
"Kabara Sol" is something of a departure from Ziggurat Theatre's usual metaphysical turf. Rather than tapping ancient mythology for a story line, writer-director Stephen Legawiec's modernist morality fable is set in a corrupt Asian harbor town in the 1930s, and plays more like a noir-ish thriller, albeit with existential overtones.
In what proves to be essentially a solo performance, Dana Wieluns assumes all three of the play's speaking parts, with varying success. Wieluns, the choreographer responsible for Ziggurat's distinctive movement style since the company's inception, skillfully employs physicality to distinguish her characters. In the striking title role, a masked, zoot-suited sociopathic male crime lord who controls the region's opium trade, she snakes ominously about the stage, effusively confessing Kabara Sol's "infamy in its painstaking particulars."
Underpinning the story of Kabara Sol's nefarious exploits is an exploration of the duality of good and evil as filtered through \o7enantiodromia\f7, a principle of equilibrium espoused by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus and refined by Carl Jung. Essentially, it holds that action begets a counterbalancing reaction, or as Kabara Sol sums it up: "Everything becomes its opposite."
Here, the villain's opposite is embodied in Wieluns' sympathetic second character, the bespectacled, club-footed Genny the Boot, a maladroit do-gooder who heroically sets out to foil Kabara Sol's schemes. The third wheel is an opium-addicted nightclub singer, for whom Wieluns musters a suitably damaged persona but lacks the pipes to sell the musical numbers. Unraveling the true relationships between these three identities takes some unexpected surreal turns, while a silent chorus strikes ritualistic poses with objects that will play a role in resolving the mystery.
-- Philip Brandes
"Kabara Sol," [Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Feb. 11. $20. (323) 461-3673 or www.fordamphitheatre.org. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Family's demons surface in 'Hurt'
As Mark Kemble would likely be the first to admit, his drama, "Bad Hurt on Cedar Street," is a Jesus-Mary-Joseph play -- an oh so bittersweet tale of Irish-Catholic scrappers, stranded between the cross and the bottle, lurching from sadism to sentiment. Even the spirit of JFK gets his due in the production at the Greenway Court Theatre.
The action takes place in a shabby tenement in Providence, 2001. Elaine Kendall (an appropriately dish-ragged Lisa Richards) keeps the family body and soul jury-rigged by wrestling her mentally disabled adult daughter (Iris Gilad) into her clothes every morning, and slipping cigarettes and painkillers to her bed-ridden, Gulf War veteran son (Grant Sullivan).