ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Miravel, or The Promise of Alphonso Bloch
Playing Harry is Jake Broder, a performer whose value to the Los Angeles theatrical landscape — and to the Sacred Fools Theater Company — is inestimable. Whether he is crawling inside the skin of Louis Prima, Ira Gershwin, Lord Buckley or the fictional Alphonso Bloch, Broder gives us multiple layers.
Of course it helps that the eclectically talented Broder is also the writer and composer of Miravel (with the music, he gets an assist from the Gershwins and Modern English). This latest Sacred Fools world premiere, directed by Shaunessy Quinn, finds Broder, Will Bradley and Devereau Chumrau funking around with a Cyrano de Bergerac-ish love triangle set among contemporary jazz musicians. With Broder's music setting the evening's tone, Quinn' s production is moody, hip, wistfully romantic and, yep, plenty complicated. There's nothing misshapen in our Alphonso' s schnozz, but there is something a perhaps a little twisted about a man who refuses to follow his heart because of a promise he made to his. . .piano?
We meet Alphonso as he is working through a song in what he thinks is the privacy of a rehearsal studio. Only it's not so private. Henry Brooks (played by Will Bradley) hears the music and wanders in, breaking up the reverie. Sporting a hipster's hat, a white t-shirt and the kind of five o' clock shadow that suggests the man' s too cool to take a razor to his face, Henry is a star, a lady killer and an arrogant SOB. But he recognizes talent and sees that Alphonso can be an asset rather than any kind of threat.
One scene later, back in the studio, we meet the lady who is to become both Alphonso and Henry's muse. Miravel (Chumrau) is a dancer with some self-worth issues who, baggage aside, has little use for over-inflated egos. Emerging from underneath Alphoso' s piano where she was taking a nap, she quickly clicks with the composer and is repulsed by Henry. Hearing Henry perform a funked-up version of the Gershwins' "Summertime" thaws Miravel in Henry' s favor, but it will take an original piece from a creative soul to win this lady. Alphonso possesses both; Henry has neither. So the composer writes a dark and sexy love song, "The Ballad of Howler and Ella," passing all the credit to Henry. And Miravel is won.
Happily ever after? Not in a jazz tale, it isn't. Henry may be a talented guy, a performer who can tear his way through the right kind of song, but things start to go south for Henry and Miravel once Henry realizes that his abilities don't measure up. Miravel starts taking refuge at Alphonso' s pad and things start to get ugly.
Alphonso is Miravel's" most tormented cat, but Henry is wrestling with some nasty demons himself. The cocksuredness, the angry hipness is masking something — feelings of adequacy, a desperate fear of being alone. Whatever that monster is, it comes out when Bradley sings and shuffles his way (via Cj Merriman's often frenzied choreography) through one of Alphonso's numbers. Miravel' s attraction to this hot mess of an artist makes perfect sense. You detest the guy while you' re drawn to him.
The impossibly leggy Chumrau brings smarts and vulnerability to this dance. Her Miravel doesn't want to be any man' s trophy, but she knows her own talents may be limited. There are different levels of sizzle when Chumrau is working opposite Bradley and Broder, but in both cases, she' s a hot muse, well worth winning.
And while we can't be entirely sure what has brought Alphonso to make his unusual pledge (or to break it), Broder makes the mystery enticing. In his hands, Alphonso is not quite a hermit, not quite a social success (although the character ends up getting national attention). The resolution is perhaps a little too easy, but Broder, Bradley and Chumrau make the journey consistently engaging.
A final note. Since the music is such a key player in this interlude, a big shout-out to band members Colin Kupka on the saxophone, Michael Alvidrez on bass and Kenny Elliott on drums. Pre-curtain Kupka took a chair center stage and soloed for what must have been a solid 10 minutes. Here's another complicated cat in a play chock full of them.