The Unexpected Man Theatre Review - Bright Eyes Production of Yasmina Reza Play is an Expected Romantic Pleasure

Famous novelist Paul Parsky (Ronald Hunter) and fellow passenger Martha (Judy Jean Berns) wait for their train

(Los Angeles, CA) February 20, 2010 – Playwright Yasmina Reza remarked in an interview with VENICE Magazine that the one invisible thread that links all her writings is how human beings deal with the passing of time. In The Unexpected Man, she delves into the lives of a famous novelist ( Ronald Hunter) and a grieving woman ( Judy Jean Berns) while they travel from Paris to Frankfurt on a train. And during that precious, intimate time, the audience is witness to their most secret thoughts, culminating in a climax that is poignant, graceful, and romantic. The play had successful runs in London, New York, and  Westwood (specifically at the Geffen Playhouse starring Christopher Lloyd and Holland Taylor). At The Lounge Theatre, Bright Eyes Productions successfully captures the eloquence of Yasmina Reza’s dialogue and the magical chemistry of her characters.

 

Forlorn Martha (Judy Jean Berns) ponders her future

Paul Parsky ( Hunter) is a very bitter man---bitter over his literary works, his friendships, and his life. He is especially bitter that his estranged daughter is about to marry a man who is almost as old as Parsky, resulting in him traveling by train from Paris to Frankfurt to meet his future son-in-law. Across the aisle from him is Martha ( Berns), a sad woman grieving over the death of a close friend. She also happens to be a loyal fan of Parsky; she has in her possession a copy of his latest book, The Unexpected Man. And throughout the entire play, both passengers share their lives to the audience through powerful, internal monologues, dwelling on their pasts and, especially, pondering how to approach each other to express their mutual attraction. This secretive dance goes almost throughout the entire 90 minute play (which has no intermission), but they eventually break the barrier and have their exchange, resulting in an ending that highlights the graceful balance of Reza’s story.

At first, Martha (Jody Jean Berns) considers Parsky (Ronald Hunter)

The Unexpected Man relies on the strength of two strong actors to drive the humanity of this story home, and both Ronald Hunter and Judy Jean Berns deliver in spades. Hunter’s Parsky is a cynical curmudgeon who possesses a razor sharp wit and a bone dry sense of sarcastic humor. However, Hunter slowly reveals and develops Parsky’s vulnerable side as he broods about his daughter, as well as playfully muses whether Martha recognizes him as the author of The Unexpected Man. Hunter deftly shows the crack in his author’s emotional armor, giving a heartbreaking performance. Equally moving is Berns’ Martha, a lovable romantic who utilizes her strength and endurance in order to deal with the tragedies of her past. When she discovers her favorite author, whose work somehow connects with key facets of her own life, Berns interlaces Martha’s sadness with her hope that the reality of Parsky matches her fantasy. Berns has fun showing Martha’s almost childlike insecurity and awkwardness, while also enhancing her empathetic charm. And when both characters finally converse, their chemistry is truly magnetic.

But the play is not just an actor’s showcase. David Robinson’s direction is smooth and nicely paced, and Chrystal Lee’s minimalist set maintains its cosmopolitan feel. Even the train seats are symbolic of the characters’ personalities: dull, grey vinyl for Parksy; a rich, smooth red velvet for Martha. And these three qualities---acting, direction, and scenic design---make The Unexpected Man a memorable train ride towards theatrical excellence.


But now, Paul (Ronald Hunter) considers Martha (Judy Jean Berns)


 
 
THE UNEXPECTED MAN OPENS Feb 19th – Mar. 28th, 2010
Fri. & Sat. 8PM and Sun 3PM

THE LOUNGE 2 THEATRE
6201 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

For Reservations call 323-960-7785
$20.00 General Admission
Reserve ONLINE at: www.plays411.com/theunexpectedman

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