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Solid Ensemble in the Production of "Brewsie and Willie"

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Friday, July 23, 2010, at 04:53PM
IMG_9855 Ed Fuentes

"Brewsie and Willie" run through a scene in the Downtown Los Angeles loft space converted into a theater.

On the 7th floor of a building on Los Angeles Street, a raw space has been converted into a theater so a frenetic ensemble can take on Gertrude Stein.

"Brewsie and Willie,” a play adapted for the stage from Stein's 1946 novella, fires a barrage of ideas and philosophy from World War II GI's and nurses waiting to return home. They all wonder what awaits them stateside after their victory in France.

The ensemble plays straight to Stein's words, adding inflection and tone while staying away from the trap of playing urgency with limited notes. That rhythm is lead by Jonney Ahmanson (Brewsie) and Brad Culver (Willie), no small task for a show that seems to fit two hours of emotions into one hour and 14 minutes.

The stage is set in France, but the penthouse view is part of the abstraction as windows let the skyline in. Inside, signs from the Hotel Rosslyn are projected on the wall, giving a Parisian urban touch despite the local references. Sandbags and parachutes complete the set, which gives the powerful ensemble room to cavort, fight, curse and yet not fall on the laps of audiences.

Getting "Brewsie and Willie” to the top floor also took the work of an ensemble. Produced by CalArts' Center for New Performance, in association with Poor Dog Group, (made of CalArts alum from 2007), the production is mostly funded by federal stimulus money funneled through the National Endowment of the Arts.

The powerful addition to Historic Core theater is temporary, which is a shame. Performances end August 1.

"Brewsie and Willie” / 7th Floor Penthouse / 533 S. Los Angeles / Wednesday through Sunday at 8pm / Ends August 1 / Admission: $25

BREWSIE AND WILLIE - a World Premiere stage adaptation / Written by Gertrude Stein / Adapted by Marissa Chibas, Erik Ehn and Travis Preston / Directed by Travis Preston / Original music composed by Andrew Conrad and Andrew Gilbert / Choreography by Mira Kingsley

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