by Dale Reynolds

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday September 19, 2018

Andre de Vanney; Photo by Robert Catto.
Andre de Vanney; Photo by Robert Catto.  

It isn't often that one discovers brilliance on the stage, and it is stunning when it hits you in the face with the energy, talents and involvement you see in front of you, live and relevant.

Such was the experience unfolding in the performance of an Australian actor unknown to most Americans: Andrť de Vanney, in a magnificent stunningly successful performance in a stirringly-written drama, "Swansong," by Conor McDermottroe (from an idea by director Greg Carroll and the actor).

In this 80-minute gripping examination of madness, Austin "Occi" Byrne, our 30-ish tour-guide, tormented by an out-of-wedlock birth and upbringing in conservative Ireland of the 1960s, begins by describing his love of the local swans in a river. Every day he goes and feeds them, having given them names ("Agnes" is his favorite). He then explores his torments - being ostracized by his hometown's Catholic majority and bullied by his peers, which leads him to murder several times over. For this he seeks redemption.

The strength of the show lies in how carefully the playwright layers the events - positive, but mostly negative - that propel the character to his heinous actions.

On a bare stage, with constructive lighting (designed by Jared A. Sayeg), the actor's plays with the audience, surprising us with the agility of a dancer or a boxer. (Hats-off salute here as well to Christopher Hoffman, the well-worked stage manager.)

De Vanney is 5'6", but on the stage he's much taller (perception is all, don't you know). Well-built with an alluring face, he manages to constantly keep us engaged with Occi's life-tale, that is sad, disturbing, amusing. From this performance you understand why he's well-known in Australia for his extensive television, film and stage work, as well as his work in several U.S. television mini-series.

It's not often one is blessed with discovering new talents, making this experience an extraordinary one. The play moves to New York after it completes its run here to take part in United Solo, the world's largest solo theater festival in November.

Co-produced by the Australian Theatre Company and the Skylight Theatre, "Swansong" plays through October 7 at the Skylight Theatre, 1817Ĺ N. Vermont Street, Los Angeles 90027. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30pm; Sundays at 2:00pm; and Mondays at 8:00pm. Tickets: (213) 761-7061 or (866) 800-4111.