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A CurtainUp Review
By Jack Holland
The Fountain Theatre presents the Los Angeles premiere of David Ives' new play Ancient History. David Ives previously wrote the Outer Critics Circle Award-winning hit comedy, All In the Timing. Lives of the Saints, The Red Address, Seven Menus, Mere Mortals, The Secret Garden and Speed the Play. . Regrettably, Ancient History fails to live up to the playwright's reputation. It brings nothing new or entertaining to the stage in any way, shape or form.
The play opens with the sounds of lovemaking emanating from behind a curtain. The lovemaking climaxes and a dialogue ensues between the lovers hidden behind the curtain. Interesting at first, the gimmick quickly becomes tedious. Luckily, the curtain doesn't last long but unluckily the inane dialogue between the two lovers continues.
Once the couple, Jack and Ruth, are out of bed, they must prepare for the arrival of guests to Ruth's birthday party. They dance, they run, they skip and jump, all the while getting dressed and continuing to talk. The dialogue is geared around snappy, sarcastic comments, with the subject ranging from how great sex is between them to religion, relatives, politics and, last but not least, love.
Ruth can articulate love, Jack can't. The lack of originality in this verbal tug of war is a window onto the rest of the play. Also, the lack of magic between these two actors creates the sense that the inability of Jack to say love is more of a realistic position then the playwright intended. Their relationship is just about sex and the mistaken belief that they are two of a kind. Why they believe they are kindred spirits remains a mystery to the audience. When they finally realize they weren't made for each other, they fight for a few moments and then skate around the issue, never coming to any understanding.
Rendee Trabitz who last year helmed the hit comedy, The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Tiffany Theatre, directs Ancient History in a manner at once frantic and uninteresting. Her pacing does work well in one section of the play, a transitional scene involving the actors at a party.
John Michael Morgan, who plays Jack, is capable enough for the physical requirements of his role but struggles with his character's sharper edges. Most of the time he is too subtle. When the fight comes, he explodes with a rage that's unexpected and frightening -- not good for a comedy.
Renee Ridgely, who plays Ruth, is also a capable actor. She manages a few moving moments. Too bad her character is written too unevenly and iconsistently for more.
Editor's Note: We've reviewed two of David Ives' plays at CurtainUp and seen several others. All were assemblages of short pieces and all were directed by John Rando and featured a larger cast, all of whom have tapped into Ives' particular quirkiness. Our interview with director Rando during rehearsals for the Berkshire premiere of Lives of the Saints bore the tongue-in-cheek title "John Rando: Without him "Everything is Awful!" (the interview). Could it be that the play Jack Holland found so disappointing also needed to be playlets instead of plays along with Rando -- and some of the Ivesians who have interpreted his work so well in the past? -- E.S.
OTHER DAVID IVES PLAYS REVIEWED AT CURTAINUP
Lives of the Saints