The Revisionist Review - Parallel Lines Never Intersect

Jesse Eisenberg’s semi-autobiographical play presents interesting challenges when a writer constipated by his own anger and impotence takes a trip to Poland to unlock his creative inner self. David (Seamus Mulcahy) has had a modicum of past success as a young adult novelist, even if his reviews were cool to disastrous. Now he is overcome by a massive writer’s block as he tries to complete his newest book and prove to the world that he is a fresh talent. Nothing seems to help until he finally takes a trip to Poland to visit Maria, an elderly distant cousin (Deanna Dunagan). Yet, even though this is a visit, he can barely bring himself to interact with his lonely cousin, who is eager for family contact and tries everything at her disposal to make him happy. About the only thing that seems to offer him contentment is a few quick puffs of pot blown out a bedroom window.

 

Deanna Dunagan and Seamus Mulcahy - Photo by Kevin Parry

As the two get to know each other over a brief few days, Maria’s past slowly emerges. She is a holocaust survivor who lost all her relatives in the camps and escaped only because she was sent to live with a Catholic family as a young child. Meanwhile, David seems almost impervious to her traumatic history. A friend and son-surrogate Zenon (Ilia Volok) makes an occasional entrance to offset the somber mood between the two. When occasional laughter erupts, it is certainly only an example of the blackest humor.

Deanna Dunagan and Seamus Mulcahy - Photo by Kevin Parry

 

The talented cast give their all to this play. Maria is especially effective as David’s solitary, somewhat waspish Polish cousin who tries to cover up her sadness and loneliness. After the show, Dunagan remarked that this was a supremely difficult show for her, since she had to learn some Polish as well as the long script and appear on stage throughout the play. If David’s goal was to come across as a self-centered millennial, then he succeeded admirably. Unfortunately, his unsympathetic role does not draw the audience into his corner; and he remains aloof and unappealing throughout. This is possibly the weakest element in Eisenberg’s play. It is almost impossible for the audience to care about what happens to this churlish and infantile character. Zenon adds some life to scenes which might otherwise be too slow moving and intellectual. Director Robin Larsen keeps the pace intimate in this struggle between two characters seeking an undefined goal.

 

Ilia Volok and Seamus Mulcahy - Photo by Kevin Parry

Tom Buderwitz’s scenic design deserves special notice. The three rooms in Maria’s tiny apartment are strung out like beads in a row, while the audience is divided into two groups who sit on either side of the elongated stage. The set-up emphasizes the claustrophobic confines of Maria’s life and achieves its goal completely. Leigh Allen’s lighting adds to the feeling of a pot ready to boil - but not quite yet. Overall, THE REVISIONIST is an intriguing tale which might have been more involving were David given a more rounded persona.

 

Deanna Dunagan and Seamus Mulcahy - Photo by Kevin Parry

THE REVISIONIST runs runs through April 17, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Lovelace Studio Theater is at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA. Tickets are $50. For reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online at www.thewallis.org.

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