The Gary Plays

by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday May 25, 2017

Amanda Weier and Jeff LeBeau
Amanda Weier and Jeff LeBeau  

Given the chance to be introduced to the work of playwright Murray Mednick was an exciting invitation not to be missed. He was long known to theater mavens as one of the founders of the Padua Hills Playwrights Workshop/Festival and honored for his early Off-Off Broadway works.

This month, the adventurous Open Fist Theatre Company took six of the eight of his "The Gary Plays," and, under the intelligent and exacting direction of Guy Zimmerman, illustrated Mednick's poetic bent, taking dialogue which is day-to-day common and making them, within a iambic pentameter rhythm, exhilarating and meaningful.

The six plays were broken up into three nights: First set: "Tirade for Three," the shortest segment, followed by a full-length, "Girl on a Bed." Second set: "Gary's Walk" and "Out of the Blue." Third set: "DaddyO Dies Well," and "Charles' Story." The six plays deal with one man's anguish: an unemployed actor, Gary Bean, who is going through economic and spiritual distress as his son has just been murdered in a random gang slaying in MacArthur Park, west of downtown Los Angeles, and our Gary is totally lost.

This everyman and anti-hero is then thrust into a noirish mythic experience, fully accessible to us. His anguish easily becomes our anguish, watching him, for instance, walk the 16 miles to Venice Beach to scatter the lad's ashes with two friends. We meet his current and ex-wives, a scuzzy dope dealer Antonio (played gloriously by Peggy Ann Blow), his dying father and liberated mother, and a wide variety of people he has to endure and interact with.

Gary (played by three actors: Jeff LeBeau, Kelly Van Kirk, and Darrell Larson) is experiencing an essential distillation of the meaning of tragedy, by having to come to terms with the senseless death of his son, of his fading career, and his inability to accept or give meaning to his two marriages, past and present.

This is extraordinary and epic theater, seeing the six plays over those three nights (or in an all afternoon/evening event) with a thoroughly professional and talented cast of sixteen.

Every single actor was spot-on in his or her characterization, with exceptional performances by LeBeau, Derek Manson in four different roles, Blow as the Latino doper, Barbara Shofield as a wife, Roderick Menzies as a vibrant and unhinged DaddyO, and a robust Norbert Weisser, aided by the excellent work of Laura Liguari, Laura Richardson, Josh Trant, Van Kirk, Larson, Elizabeth Lande, Phillip C. Curry, Carl J. Johnson, and Amanda Weier. Each and every one of them giving gem-like performances, well-cut and sparkly.

Jeff G. Rack's scenic design was simple and effective, especially when backed by Hana S. Kim's beautiful projection design and Dan Reed's lighting plot.

This was exhilarating theater, an example of the kind of quality theater in danger of being left behind by Actors' Equity's boorish behavior in financially limiting what smaller theaters can afford to do here in this astonishing theater town.

Open Fist, under the leadership of co-producer Martha Demson, is clearly one of the best companies in town and I, for one, wish to see their future work.

"The Gary Plays" perform through June 10 at the Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas, Los Angeles, 90039. For tickets and information, call 323-882-6912 or visit