Theatre Review: Island of Brilliance

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By Suzy Williams

Here is what we have right on Venice boulevard: Beyond Baroque, Sparc, and Pacific Resident Theater, all in a row. Three classy meccas of culture. The first specializing in poetry and literature; the second, art and murals; the third, plays – the tried and true and the new.  We Beachheadniks often find ourselves in the first two meccas, but the latter… well, we know it’s there, and we know it’s good, but there’s rarely a familiar face in the always intelligent-looking crowd of audience and actors standing outside the inviting rustic exterior. We just don’t know anybody, and so with an occasional exception, the Pacific Resident stays out of our purview.  It’s been an island of brilliance that we just don’t catch the ferry to see.

I just saw a play there that has inspired me to dig down deep and buy season tickets. “Island of Brilliance” is playing in the littlest of the three Pacific Resident theaters, the Co-op. The play concerns the life of Eve Brighton, a bright (and beautiful- in the form of Jill Renner) high school senior, and her relationship with her beloved special-needs savant sister, their mother and a carousel of characters who revolve around them. Ms. Renner’s Eve is blushingly tormented, riveting to see, at once cynical and eager to please.

Ava Bogle, the special sister, is unforgettable with giant eyes peering emptily in every direction in slow motion, rattling off pages of instantly memorized text that had been read to her once. (Ms. Bogle was supreme as all three would-be girlfriends of Harold in “Harold and Maude”- a recent PRT production. If I hadn’t read the program, I wouldn’t have guessed  they were all played by the same person).

We meet Eve’s English teacher, father, and suitor- all excellently cast and played. (MaryJane, ex Beachhead collectivist, plays several college-entrance interviewers with humor and great subtlety.) Dawn O’Leary’s plot keeps advancing and circling, exploring depths of character at every turn.  The set-up is swell, the payoff fantastic.  Suffice it to say, there is a hyper-dramatic scene towards the end that is upsetting, tear-jerking (in a good way), and revelatory. This is followed by a cleansing resolve that is nothing short of spiritually redeeming.

Try to get yourself landed on “Island of Brilliance” before it shimmers away. Written by Dawn O’Leary, Produced by Alley Mills and Orson Bean; Sets by William Wilday, Directed by Wynn Marlow.

Cast features (below) front row: Norm Skaggs, Nancy Linehan Charles, Jill Renner  back row:

Maryjane, Kevin Railsback, Ava Bogle, Bill Lithgow

The show has been extended till December 19th, is dark Christmas week, and then continues for 3 more weekends starting New Year’s Day. Thurs thru Sats 8 PM, Sundays at 3 0’clock. Pacific Resident Theatre: 703 Venice Blvd. Reservations:310-822-8392.

 

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