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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Dreamer Examines His Pillow
" I made a decision that in the first half of my playwriting life, I would write about my problems as a man. In the second half, I would turn towards society," John Patrick Shanley told me in a 2005 interview. This play, written in 1985, addresses the bewildering passions of a very young couple. As usual, Shanley makes magic with language. He juggles metaphors like balls in the air, but each word is sharply chosen. If some of the monologues seem to have too many metaphors, that, too, is part of the excessiveness of a young couple's quest and an artists's self-protective fury.
The play opens in the basement apartment of Tommy (Jeffrey Stubblefield) who is visited by Donna (Amanda Tepe), the girlfriend he's jilted and whose teen-age sister he's "porking" (a synonym for sex that's new to me. )Tommy and Donna still love each other passionately but helplessly because their fear and rage have brought them to a stalemate. A self-portrait Tommy has nailed to his wall sends Donna on a visit to her Dad (Eddie Jones), a painter for whom she's had a lifelong animosity because of his treatment of her late mother. She's afraid she's repeating her mother's pattern, that she "could be in the middle of somebody else's life." She learns her mother was the love of Dad's life and, because of the intensity of that passion, he had to create an outside space where he could work. "Otherwise, she woulda taken me over all the way," he confesses miserably. "I hid part a me from her to save somethin' cause I was scared." Now, he concludes, "what I saved wasn't worth a god damn thing."
Donna persuades Dad to talk to Tommy and the final confrontation is summarized by Dad's answer to Donna's question. "You went for guys like me and him cause that's what you like an who you are. And what you hate and makes you crazy is that it's a mirror and what the mirror tells you."
It takes a mesmerizing cast to convincingly capture this fascinating blend of philosophy and aphorism below shouting level. Eddie Jones conveys a cherubic slyness that conveys a decadent consolation. Amanda Tepe begins with a mannered tough girl swagger that distracts from the genuine pain and rage she mines from her character but by the second act, playing against Jones with whom she has a bonding charisma, the chip falls off her shoulder. Jeffrey Stubblefield projects Tommy's fear and passion with intense credibility.
Director Anita Khanzadian keeps the tension high and subtle. Production values are first rate. Victoria Profitt's set has a painted floor and shaded walls which gain texture through Carol Doehring's exquisite lighting design. Steve Hull's sound design compositions alternate from drums to a grumbling score that seems to come, in Shanley's words, "from the place under that place, where men and women can meet and talk, if you know what I mean. And it's way down. And it's dark. And it's old as the motherfuckin' stars."
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide