I love to see the glorious mélange that theatre excels in fostering. A confrontation between Hitler and an Eastern deity, featuring a company of physically and mentally challenged actors? I’m there! A retelling of a Scandavian feminist classic performed by Amazonian actresses paired with diminutive actors under four feet tall? That’s me, front row center. Macbeth interpreted by three bare assed non-speaking actors in full body white make-up staged in a drained swimming pool with musical accompliment by a large white rat tethered to a synthesizer keyboard? Okay, maybe that one I’ll take a pass on.
However a stylish multi-racial comedy, weighing the existential costs of surviving the unsurviable as expressed in the fiery footwork of classical flamenco dancing in defiance of history’s horrors and death’s inevitability? Well, this is something not to be missed.
From these diverse threads playwright Stephen Sachs and director Shirley Jo Finney have weaved a silken web, which is sincere, touching, inspiring, provoking, genuine and darn entertaining.
Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap) is Jewish, middle-aged, over-weight and struggling to cope with the approaching anniversary of her mother’s death and the traditional lighting of the yahrzeit candle at her gravesite. Her Japanese-American masseuse Tina (Tamlyn Tomia), as a means to help Rochelle in coping with the stress, drags her to a flamenco class. There she meets Daloris (Juanita Jennings) an African-American cancer survivor, and others who have gathered under the tutelage of Katarina (Maria Bermudez who also serves as choreographer), the smoldering Roma instructor who seeks to infuse in them the cante jondo, the wound of your spirit that finds release and celebration in the sweeping rhythms of the dance.
Each of the women, to varying degrees, have felt the harsh hand of history through Holocaust, interment camp or bondage, and each, by the deaths of their mothers, feel the loss of their source and a lessening of themselves.
Sachs has filled his play with passion and intelligence to the point of bursting, but each time the critical mass of the piece seems on the verge of rupturing, Bermudez takes to the stage in a whirlwind of El baile flamenco.
Director Shirley Jo Finney deftly orchestrates the passions of the piece so that they are never permitted to overawe the intimacy of the venue, without sacrificing the work’s emotional eloquence in the process.
Dunlap, Tomita and Jennings are actresses of stunning talent. Bermudez is a force of nature. Sachs and Finney have given them the means and the guidance to channel their gifts into an exultation of the human spirit, and, in doing so, the Fountain Theatre has once again given Los Angeles theater worth celebrating.
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave.
Los Angeles CA 90029
(Fountain at Normandie)
Performances continue through August 25
Wednesday @ 8 pm: Aug. 7 only
Thursdays @ 8 pm: July 11; Aug. 8, 15, 22 (dark July 4, 18, 25; Aug. 1)
Fridays @ 8 pm: July 5, 12; Aug. 16, 23 (dark July 19, 26; Aug. 2, 9)
Saturdays @ 8 pm: July 6, 13; August 3, 17, 24 (dark July 20, 27; Aug. 10)
Sundays @ 2 pm: July 7, 14; Aug. 4, 18, 25 (dark July 21, 28; Aug. 11)
Reserved seating: $34
Seniors over 65 and students with ID (Thursdays and Fridays only): $25
Secure, on-site parking: $5