Welcome to Roy Cohn’s head
Welcome to Roy Cohn’s bed.
Welcome to the fevered reflections of a life that will soon toll to an end.
From a kings sized bed on a master bedroom that is center stage, Roy Cohn (Barry Pearl) awakes. Both notorious and infamous, Cohn welcomes the audience to the world that once was and the world always wanted. Together with Froggie, his favorite stuffed animal, and the beautiful dancing apparition Young Roy (Jeffrey Scott Parsons), Cohn ekes closer and closer to his final hour.
Cohn is visited by whimsical memories incarnated and haunted by ghosts from his less than shining moments. Roy’s mother, Dora Cohn (Cheryl David) is the quintessential Jewish mother, a bit more dramatic and glamorous than any son would want their mom to be. Doping and needy, judgmental and loving, Dora’s influence on Roy is tenacious and her fall into illness is highly traumatic.
Roy’s touchstone to the world through out the fragmented episodes of his mind is ridiculously sex, barely bilingual Lizette (Presciliana Esparolini), his maid and caretaker. She taunts him sexually, chides him when he does things that are dangerous or unhealthy. G. David Schine (Tom Galup), Roy’s secret gay lover materializes to recount and reenact the sexscapades of their youth and to toss an envious eye towards Roy more public and prominent lover, Barbara Walters (Liza de Weerd). Beyond Babs, Roy’s mind swims in the unlikely but enormously entertainment friendship with then actor, eventual POTUS, Ronald Reagan (David Sessions). Reagan was never one to judge and always quick with notes on presentation – to help Roy repair his staggering unpopularity.
If there be ghosts in Roy Cohn’s bed, it was the haunting voice of Julius Rosenberg (Jon Levenson), convicted spy and husband of completely innocent writer Ethel Rosenberg. Ethel herself would make a visit upon Cohn, reminding him that his greatest single achievement was also his greatest sin. And at the chiming of each passing hour, the world screeches to an ominous stop as the bells resound the impending point of no return for Roy Cohn.
The thing you need to know is: this is a fantasy play; by definition, you simply have to go with it. Things make sense the way they make sense in a dream - a mere word or sentence can take the characters in a completely different place and time. Ideas are fragmented, hence it is never predictable where the play will go, nor how long it will stay. While characters within this fever dream are, for the most part, consistent in temper and identity, the plot is far less consistent in connecting the dots.
Kuods to director Jules Aaron. The performances in this piece are beautifully crafted and tonally exact with every actor “on the same page”, in the same play – a unifying quality that is often lacking in such abstract works. However, the thing I wanted to know is: why should I care? I couldn’t tell if this was the story of a misunderstood anti-hero or a hyper-comedic, quasi-bio play. I wasn’t sure how I should feel about the character, or if it was simply a look at this historical figure through a kaleidoscope of illusions. Am I supposed to like Roy? What is the take-away here? If there is a point or a lesson, it’s gotten lost.
Despite the disjointed presentation, Hunger is a very funny and ironic piece. The costumes (Shon LeBlanc) are simultaneously hyper-real and understated. The orchestration of light (Jeremy Livnick), sound (Max Kinberg) and choreography (Kay Cole) is truly inspired. HOnorary mention for the very cool projection design (Adam Flemming) as well. It challenges the theatre palette that is too accustomed to the straightforward, linear narrative. This production is an enchanting spectacle and indeed wildly entertaining. I’m glad I went to see it, although I’m still not sure way.
Hunger: In Bed with Roy Cohn runs January 21, 2012 through March 11, 2012 at:
2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025-5621
(One block north of Olympic Blvd.)
Reservations: (310) 477-2055