a kate west review
world premiere presented by
White Buffalo Theatre Company
written by Brett Holland
directed by Kerrie Keane
at the Deaf West Theatre
5112 Lankershim Blvd.,
North Hollywood 91601
running April 17 to May 24
or (818) 569-3037
"Nostalgia and Dreams" is a brand new play by Brett Holland, company member of the eclectic White Buffalo Theatre Company in North Hollywood. An apartment building full of tenants showcases lives turned upside down at the same time a local Cathedral is scheduled for demolition. The obvious references to a crisis in faith are interspersed with seemingly dark secrets. Unfortunately, despite committed performances, it doesn't quite come together.
One young couple battles with what appears to be a marriage-ending secret. Another mother-daughter pair wrestles with possible anorexia. One tenant whines about being gay and another neighbor talks to someone dead. In an effort to create universal conflict, Playwright Brett Holland makes the characters interact from time to time, but ultimately they have no real affect on one another.
Director Kerrie Keane weaves the story lines together, but not everything fits. For instance two "suits" (Danny Junod and Jessica Wright) slip down the theater aisles when the lights dim in between scenes. Their corporate presence seems to indicate societal and business pressures on the protagonists, often egging them on into deeper insecurities. They howl and gyrate, taunting everyone, but could just as easily been eliminated as they do not add much to the general plot.
Speaking of plots, the script follows quite a perplexing few. Paul (Playwright Brett Holland) is a young man tortured by his homosexuality. He is shadowed by a young boy (Chris Haehnel) who appears to be a symbol for something. His inner child? His past? His future? It is never explained. We never find out why Paul is so unhappy with his lifestyle or his relationship to a stressed-out new mother (Regina Peluso). Standout Sydney Park is radiant as Rebecca, the young girl with a God fixation who wants to be much too thin. Her mother (Angelina Leaf) is in denial until finally snapping in a rather awkward force-feeding scene, after neighbor Paul attempts a half-hearted intervention. Tommy (Carlo Serna) and Amy (Marguerite Moreau) are a young couple with communication problems. Their relationship is a bit grating and cutesy. And after all the build up with a seemingly dark secret, their resolution is a bit watered down. Lynne Conner is a spiritual old woman who talks to herself, or maybe someone from her past or from the graveyard. That is never explained either. Marguerite Moreau and Sydney Park (keep an eye on her so you can say you-knew-her-when) give the strongest performances, in spite of the rather weak dialogue. Nothing connects in a truly genuine way.
Life, death, love and spirituality are all touched on but never given deep illumination. The play would do much better as a one act, in a shorter format, with some brief glimpses into life vignettes. That way, each character could have snippets of conversations and the poetic intent would work much better, rather than leading us down character paths, only to find ourselves asking why? Granted, the intention is sincere, but the overall writing needs tidying up as the messages are rather obvious. There is a lot of yearning and some inexplicable monologues in the mix as well. Also, the attempt at absurdism does not quite make it. To go in that direction, one would need to go to the other extreme and make a longer play, with more fleshed out fantastical characters.
As it is, the play now stands in between two genres and does not reach its true potential. We never specifically find out what the nostalgia and dreams are all about either. Too bad. The White Buffalo Theatre Company certainly has heart however and seems to be doing well for itself. So there's that.
a kate west review