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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Tooth and Nail
Gerald Laney (Gregory Mortensen), a morose middle-aged man, is dying of cancer. After attending their favorite movie, A Lion in Winter, he falls, bumps his head and wakes up being the man he always wanted to be: King Henry II as interpreted by Peter O'Toole in the movie made from Goldman's play.
Although Mortensen has the marvelous plummy voice that reeks of Shakespearean actor, the playwright and director Lindsay Allbaugh are wise enough not to attempt a take-off on O'Toole. Gerald is very much himself liberated, his inner self imperiously speaking his mind for the first time in his life.
Dithery Ellie's one moment of truth comes when Gerald refuses to take the medication that dulls his senses and she protests violently that his sickness is her loss, too. The daughters are Robin (Jennifer Etienne Eckert), whose pregnancy buoys the family up until a bitter plot twist; Dylan (Tara Norris), a recovering alcoholic who is furious with her father and childlike Rose (Kerry Carney), who turns out to be the Richard-the-Lion-Heart character. Their new neighbors, gay partners Michael (Tony Foster) and Julian (Tom Stanczyk), add flavor and more conflicts. "Don't call yourself an alcoholic! Alcoholism is a title to be earned! " Gerald roars at Dylan, another line that suggests a story that we'd like to hear more of.
Director Lindsay Albaugh keeps the first act frothy and listens to her characters in the second act where, rather schematically, everyone addresses his/her problem. The cast is good and particularly lucky in having Mortensen for their Henry II. Stanczyk is very funny as Julian without overcamping. This is a lovely example of the effects movies have on people's lives and the creative recycling, without imitation, of glorious source material.