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Just Another Night Out With Padua Playwrights: "Neo-Sacred Revival"

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Thursday, February 05, 2009, at 01:57PM
neo Courtesy Padua Playwrights

Lisa Denky and Gray Palmer in "Tiny Trumpets," the third of three short plays from "The Neo-Sacred Revival."

In the former industrial zone of the Arts District, Padua Playwrights has manufactured subversive views of sex, death and gods with Acts of Love, Hammers, and Tiny Trumpets for a night of theater titled "The Neo-Sacred Revival: Three Plays for the Modern Soul."

The trio of plays arrive from Padua's writing workshops, directed by Guy Zimmerman, and a new actors' workshop, led by Gill Gayle. They are in the tradition of the Padua Hills Playwriting Workshop, once headed by playwright Murray Mednick, and influenced by the bleak, witty worlds of Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett.

Zimmerman writes in the program notes that theater as an art form must aim "to generate a collective awareness, and then direct it at some basic mystery in our lives."

That school of thought sometimes forces the audience to share a certain pain with the characters: the pain of searching for meaning.

Those daring enough to seek out the playwright for direct interpretation will earn a curt dismissal and an evil eye, perhaps born from a determination to expose your shallow intellect. After all, how dare you not understand that these plays explore a new spirituality in this time of renewal? If you are not willing to take journey without a narrative road map, you are dismissed.

We'll try to provide one anyway.

The night opens with a brief musical set by two couples (Gray Palmer, Caroline Duncan, Jack Littman, Corryn Cummins), a Lawrence Welk-ish greek chorus singing Septimus Winner's "Whispering Hope," smoothly arranged by Katie McMurran to led you into middle class disharmony.

"Acts of Love" takes place in the Venice beachfront home of bored screenwriter Aaron (Micky Swenson). He's hosting Kenny (Richard Azurida), a man has a wandering eye and dietary restrictions, and Kenny's date, Nina (Lake Sharp), whose senses are overwhelmed by cheese hor d'hoeuvres. Aaron is depressed by his monetary success in horror films and unresponsive to the seductive way drinks are served by his wife, Hannah (Sandra McCurdy). Crashing the party is Aaron and Hannah's alternative sexual female partner, Paula (Kim Debus) who demands to know what intimacy is.

The silhouette of two lonesome cowboys (Jack and Gregory Littman) singing Charlotte Elliott and William Bradbury's "Just As I Am" opens the second play called "Hammers." Emmerich (Gill Gayle) is trapped by ambitions, waiting for the fate of his screenplay about Comanche chief Quannah Parker. Emmerich's brother Hammer (Adrian Alex Cruz) is nearby, unable to forgive himself for a crime and making his own personal penance. Hammer takes Emmerich's characters to hold a subconscious tribal tribunal, and finds a freedom from his personal pain.

Ending the night is “Tiny Trumpets" where Rin (Caroline Duncan) is getting ready for her place in new-age religion cult, her eyes going from confused hope to glazed acceptance. Meanwhile, her estranged parents Eve and Phil (Lisa Denke and Gregory Palmer) try to find themselves in each other with flat seduction (while wondering why Rin has a need to find a substitute for them). Appearing on the background scrim are demons from past conversations, while toy trumpets sound as a warning with no success. The play ends in with the cast in a testament of revival with "How Great Art Thou."

The darkness of the three plays are somehow more unsettling with the white and off-white sets. What is telling is when members of the balanced ensemble are in character facing the audience; it's not actors breaking the fourth wall to connect with an audience, it's a character attempting to escape the reality of the stage.

If you need a meaningful reason to spend $20, know that "The Neo-Sacred Revival" is a solid night out with a theater ensemble that shows brilliant range.

"The Neo-Sacred Revival" / 3 Short Plays for the Modern Soul Presented by Padua Playwrights / $20

Acts of Love: Written by Sharon Yablon. Directed by Gray Palmer

Tiny Trumpets: Written by Heidi Darchuk. Directed by Gill Gayle

Hammers: Written and Directed by Guy Zimmerman

Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at 8pm until Feb 15 / Art Share Los Angeles / 801 4th Place in the Arts District / For reservations, call (213) 625-1766

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