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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review

By David Avery
It's the dead boy, he's doing this to us, making us wait for a moment that will never happen
---Daniel, to the audience, about Lori's murdered son.

Questa, a new play by writer Victor Bumbalo debuting at the Court Theatre, explores the damage a tragedy can do to the lives of the people it affects. In it, we are privy to the victims, perpetrators, and bystanders.

The play begins with Paul (Michael Hagerty) rushing into his sister's apartment, hands and clothes covered in blood. He has just killed a young man in an alley while looking for anonymous sex. His sister, Susan (Alexandra Lydon), is shocked but helps him change, clean up, and hide the incident from her husband Nicholas (Tom O'Keefe). Nicholas is less than thrilled to see Paul, who was dating his best friend Kevin before Kevin died of AIDS (presumably).

The play shifts forward in time to Lori (Wendie Malick), the murdered man's grieving mother. She is being comforted by Father James (Dan Lauria), her parish priest with whom she is also having an affair.

Throughout it all a homeless man named Daniel (Dorian Harewood), who witnessed the murder, comments to the audience about the killing, the people involved, and himself.

The seasoned cast is excellent. Malick transitions believably from mocking homophobe to full press gay-basher (in a verbal sense) as she tries to deal with her son's death ("I hate being around all these gays. Pity just vomits out of them"). Hagerty's Paul drifts gracefully from recklessness to grief induced responsibility. In an attempt to comfort Lori, he tells her "We can only cut away at grief in our own way; chip at it slowly." O'Keefe's Nicholas clearly shows his awareness of his wife's unhealthy fascination with her brother.

It's Harewood's Daniel who steals the show, as a flamboyant chorus and audience confidante. His observations always seem to come from some very deep, personal place of sadness and grief. ("I'll bet you she {Lori} catches him before he catches me -- you see, I'm invisible to the world,").

The themes of this play are numerous: homosexuality, addiction, incest, sin, grief, penance, redemption -- are all tossed together, with no character emerging as a hero, and all equally damaged. The most likable person (Daniel) is a homeless "queer" with a pill addiction that follows people he falls in love with from an alley that is used for illicit sexual encounters.

Joe Cacaci's direction has some nice touches, like the two scenes late in the play that combined different locations on the same stage. The short scenes interspersed with music are very reminiscent of TV dramas. Quick set changes are enabled by Evan Bartoletti's simple sliding screens and some few far-fetched contrivances by the playwright. Fortunately, he is good enough to avoid TV's simplified morality. Consequently, Questa is a smart, interesting play that balances fine acting, a solid production, and important social themes into an audience-friendly forum.

Written by Victor Bumbalo
Directed by Joe Cacaci
Main Cast: Michael Hagerty (Paul), Dorian Harewood (Daniel), Dan Lauria (Father James), Alexandra Lydon (Susan), Wendie Malick (Lori), Bruce Nozick (Richard), Tom O'Keefe (Nicholas)
Alternate Cast (Sunday evening performance only): Terry Davis (Lori), Adam Giordano (Paul), Nick Hoffa (Nicholas), Anthony Holiday (Richard), Bruce Nozick (Father James), Harold Surratt (Daniel), Kincaid Walker (Susan)
Scenic Design: Evan Bartoletti
Costume Design: Alex Jaeger
Lighting Design: Dan Weingarten
Sound Design/Original Music: Steve Goodie
Running time: approximately 2 hours, 20 minutes (including a 15 minute intermission)
The Court Theatre, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
From 4/8/05 through 5/15/05
Thursday thru Saturday @ 8pm, Sunday @ 3pm (with alternate cast listed above)
All dates $25
Reviewed by David Avery based on 4/16/05 performance
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