A Permanent Image Review - The Ultimate Question

A family gathers in a small Idaho town for the first time in years to bury their patriarch. Christmas tree lights twinkling and carols in the background, the widow’s two adult children arrive to find the inside of their house painted entirely in while; even pictures on the walls are whitewashed. Their immediate reaction is to label their mother “crazy,” perhaps brought on by their father’s death and her excessive fondness of alcohol. 

 

A PERMANENT IMAGE slowly and carefully crafts detailed personality profiles of the three principles in the play – a mother with a surprising secret, a daughter with a nagging fear, and a son with his own mysteries which drive him to travel the world and capture shocking images on film. It is later revealed that their father has an equally surprising secret which slowly unravels through his penchant for making videos. After some meandering through the broadly-sketched and somewhat slow first act, A PERMANENT IMAGE arrives at the crux of the situation – mom’s plans to follow dad’s path in suicide. As she puts it so well: “I didn’t have control over a lot of things...I had little say about how life played out...I want this one last thing.” And what she wants is for her children to be present at the end of her life. Somehow author Samuel D. Hunter (OBIE Award winner and MacArthur Genius Grant Fellow) manages to pull some black humor out of this complex mosaic of family experiences.

 

A PERMANENT IMAGE is a timely exploration of the choices we make - especially on target at this point as the California legislature debates the issue of whether or not people should have a choice about how to end their lives. Since Hamlet, and certainly long before, people have debated about being or not being and the extent of their control over their destinies. A PERMANENT IMAGE moves this debate into the realm of a modern family beset with a problematic history, neglectful and perhaps even abusive child rearing skills, abandonment fears, and an over-abundance of alcohol to fuel the home fires. A PERMANENT IMAGE should certainly spark some debate long after the curtain falls. 

Kudos to the actors in this play. Their performances are especially strong as they interact with and dance around family secrets. David A Mauer’s set is cleverly planned - a metaphor for the cover-ups that go on in most families. The creative use of video, courtesy of Nicholas E. Santiago, gives the audience a sense of their place in the universe and adds the important role of father in an attention-catching way. Dan Weingarten’s lighting design, Colin Wambsgans’ sound design, and costumes by Elizabeth A. Cox contribute to a unique evening of theater. 

A PERMANENT IMAGE is making its West Coast premiers and is directed by John Perrin Flynn. It stars Anne Gee Byrd, Tracie Lockwood, Ed Mochel, and Mark L. Taylor. Performances run through August 31, 2015 (no performances on 6/22 or 7/4) at 5 pm Saturdays, 7 pm Sundays, and 8 pm Mondays. The Rogue Machine is located at 5041 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90019. Tickets are $30 - $35 and can be reserved at 855-585-5885 or go online.

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