Walking the Tightrope / by Mike Kenney
24th Street Theatre
Keith Mitchell’s multipurpose set, using the bare bones construction of the old Carriage House that has housed the 24th Street Theatre for fifteen years at once finds references in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and the perennial classic, The Fantastiks.
In his curtain speech producer Jay McAdams brings us up to date with the continuing neighborhood involvement of the theatre company and lets us in on a secret. Playwright Mike Kenny has written dialogue for his three character piece, Walking the Tightrope, but has provided nothing in the way of where or when the play takes place. No stage directions. This challenge brings director Debbie Devine to set the show in the late fifties in rural England by the sea, by the sea.
The lights go down. The lights come up and we meet an apprehensive clown, Tony Duran, a visiting actor from Mexico, who with baggy pants, an oversized red nose and a bewildered expression, leaps onto the stage from a swing. He regards the audience while holding a loose limbed child’s doll. The toy vibrates from the clown’s touch. From fear? From anticipation? From anxiety based on the emergence into an unfamiliar realm? It is not clear. The latter may be the cause, though it is never fully revealed.
The lights go down. The lights come up and here stands Granddad Stan (Mark Bramhall) who regards the audience and tells the story of how Esme (Paige Lindsey White) first came to visit Granddad and Nanna in her mommy’s tummy, and later when she was a babe in arms and so on until we learn that this will be her first visit, now at the age of seven, on her own. Ms White, clearly an adult, emulates the physical movements of a child and explodes with enthusiasm from time to time, all the while asking about where her Nanna is. Meanwhile, the clown observes at a distant closeness. Esme wants to see her Nanna and Granddad tells her that Nanna has joined the circus. Gone away with the Circus.
Through a wonderful intertwining of multiple purpose locations, projections and perfect original on stage musical accompaniment by the versatile and talented Michael Redfield, the story rolls on to reveal that Nanna may now be observed high, high up on a tightrope delineated by a pink umbrella. All of the projections on draped back drops and even on the ceiling with video design by Matthew Hill are superb! Devine’s direction seems a bit loose now and then with characters somewhat on their own from time to time, but the gentle story of a sad old granddad who certainly loves his little Esme is a nice one. The silent clown may represent the spirit of Nanna. Like the mime in The Fantastiks, he acts as a koken who facilitates props and actions as the story unfolds.
Under the umbrella of 24th Street’s LAb24, a new experimental wing of the main producing company, Walking the Tightrope is billed as a play for children. The content discusses personal loss in a gentle way and deserves an audience. The crew of very young theatre associates acting as hosts and hostesses shows that this special company’s main goal is to involve their local community as well as the world community, especially in Spanish speaking countries.
WALKING THE TIGHTROPE by Mike Kenny
24th Street Theatre
1117 West 24th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Performances Saturday and Sundays @ 2:30 and 7:30PM
January 26 through March 30, 2013
Under 16: $10
Seniors, Students and Teachers: $12
North University Park Residents: $.24 (note the decimal)
(213) 745 6516