I was recently asked what the best play I had ever seen by a friend, and even with four continents worth of examples to choose from, I immediately started talking about an obscure Parisian play, starred and written by a forgotten South American Immigrant, and put on in a tiny theatre south of the city what seemed four and a half-life times ago. The reason I was so quick to answer is that no matter that nature of what that play was, it accomplished what so many plays forget to do once they are being produced, and that is to stay true to itself. This tiny oasis of integrity, honesty, and self examining truth was the respite my tired mind needed from the massive productions at the Operas where the basic truth of storytelling, emotion, and character exploration had long since fallen to the wayside due to the restrictions of budgets, large productions, and the inflexibility of hierarchical authority structures.
While I will jump like any other theatre lover at the chance to see a Broadway production that is traveling through Atlanta and is being put on at the Famous Fox Theatre, or seeing the newest show when I am in New York, I reserve a special corner of my heart for those artistic adventurers, emotional explorers, and fearless actors who are willing to go down the rabbit hole of creativity and self reflection to the bitter cold end, no matter how grotesque or repulsive it makes them look, because that is what they story demands. That is how I find myself in a small black box theatre last night at the Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the LGBT Center located in the Ed Gould plaza in Hollywood checking out one of hundreds of pieces of theatre that make up this year’s Fringefest.
Talking Blues: Two One Acts by Cecilia Fairchild, is the first work of Cecilia Fairchild’s that she has pulled from the dust covered pyramid of creativity that sits on her living room coffee table and breathed life into by inviting a group of actors and directors of seemingly insane differences to take a leap of faith on her works, with their only hope of survival an success to be a parachute called brutal honesty. And it works. The first one act, titled Family Tradition, draws upon inanimate characters utilization of western motifs as the background to a metaphysical exploration of love, family, betrayal, insanity, and even existence by a father and daughter, expertly played by Darrett Sanders and Claudia Elmore. Sam Bianchini takes the emotionally powerful and conflicting emotions present in Fairchild’s script and expertly charts the only course that will allow Darrett and Claudia to survive the maelstrom of emotions that this play calls for and still arrive in a Safe Harbor just before being overwhelmed by the gale force winds brought up by the intense subjects of their characters relations.
Fairchild’s Second act presented the novice producer with a complex problem of how to maintain her honesty, integrity, and truth during an emotional rollercoaster brought on by the interactions of estranged lovers at her father’s funeral, when she is the writer, director, and actor called upon to represent this reality to the audience. The solution was far from simple, but at the end of the day, a stroke of bold production that pays off exponentially. Fairchild asked James Bane to act opposite of her and allow the pain, grief, love, and emotions buried under a mountain of live experiences to fuel his character, at the risk of his own personal demons.
For Bane to succeed, and for his immense physical and emotional presence to not overpower the delicate interplay with fairchild’s sardonic and cutting dialoque, an unknown, thrice dead, resurrected emotional vampire was asked to direct Fairchild and Bane, and armed with only his knowledge of these two actors and an unwavering, almost fanatical belief in authenticity, called the two of them out on their bullshit, artifice, and pretension, until the raw veneer of emotional honesty between two ex-lovers was laid bare for all to see. Stan Mayer succeed not because he is a savant director, far from it, but he was the last piece that Best of My Love, Fairchild’s second one act needed, because he was able to elicit a level of truth from Bane and Fairchild that would never be possible in a large production with other considerations, because for this crew, truth is the holy grail that will set you free from your own demons.
You may not like Talking Blues, you may love talking blues, you may not understand talking blues, but Talking Blues will make you think, Talking Blues will make you argue with your friends who see it with you, and most importantly, Talking Blues will make you feel, and at the end of the day, this play was designed to do just that, make you feel and process your feelings, whatever they may be. You can See Talking Blues a few more times before its run closes on the 25th of June, your life won’t be ruined if you don’t make it out to see this show, but it sure as hell won’t be enhanced.
Talking Blues: Two One Acts by Cecilia Fairchild
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