2 plays about seeking the “Truth” and nothing but their “Truth” – Hollywood Fringe Festival 2013
By Miguel Garcia
It was a funny coincidence to see Blue Kiss by Steven Fife and Your Authentic Self by Steve Moulds back-to-back at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, as both stories involve people who use lies to protect themselves from truths too difficult to accept.
Blue Kiss tells the story of an English teacher named Mr. Todd Evans (played by Jeremy Mascia) who tutors a high school student named Susan (played by Julie Rothman) to help her prepare for the upcoming SATs. Susan’s entrance in Todd’s apartment sets the story in motion and we are initially led to believe that this play is about a teenage girl who has a crush on her teacher. But as the tutoring session progresses, it becomes clear Susan’s intent with Mr. Evans has nothing to do with a crush or the SATs. She wants to know the truth about how his brother Lucas really died and who is truly responsible. After Susan confronts Mr. Evans about this dark piece of his past, the roles between teacher and student completely switch. The audience is then led on a journey comprised of revelations that eventually expose the truth Mr. Evans has spent years burying deep within his mind, hoping he could forget.
The performances in Blue Kiss are strong and worth watching. Jeremy Mascia gives an excellent performance of a man who has lost the ability to distinguish between reality and the lies he created to cope with the loss of a family member. Mascia also does a great job of capturing lighter, comedic moments that help keep the audience engaged throughout the plot’s convoluted journey. Julie Rothman has a strong stage presence and plays a very convincing high school student. Mascia and Rothman have wonderful on stage chemistry that shines the most when they banter about diction and word usage.
Overall, the play is a very rich story with sympathetic characters struggling to discover the truth whether they like it or not. That being said, Blue Kiss walks a fine line between drama and melodrama due to one too many “secrets revealed” moments that happen throughout the play. Especially towards the end, the back-and-forth power play between Mr. Evans and Susan becomes almost predictable. The piece as a whole could benefit from some editing: prioritizing the secrets worth revealing, removing the first two scenes to get to Susan’s entrance, which is the spark of the play.
Your Authentic Self written by Steve Moulds and skilfully directed by David Hickey is another play featuring characters lying to themselves and to each other to avoid painful truths. It opens with the play’s leads, Georgia (played by Verity Branco) and Kyle (played by Mark Scheibmeir) playfully chasing one another around their apartment, carefree and full of energy. We soon discover this loving moment is a distant memory. In the present, Georgia has lost her ability to laugh, orgasm, and connect with people. This is as a result of brain damage caused by a health condition the doctors can’t diagnose. Left with no other option, Kyle takes a chance on an infomercial he sees one late night featuring Dr. Propescu (played by Smaranda Luna) who claims she can heal anyone with her therapy treatments which focus on recovering one’s authentic self. He makes an appointment for them to see if these treatments can heal Georgia and restore her ability to laugh and enjoy life again.
From the moment Georgia and Kyle meet Dr. Propescu, they are sent on a hilarious, but painful journey to recovering their authentic selves. As we discover the true nature of each character, it becomes difficult to differentiate between protagonist and antagonist, adding well executed suspense to the storyline that keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end.
While the set up for Your Authentic Self sounds bleak, I was pleasantly surprised by how funny the whole piece was. The performances are convincing and there is a remarkable chemistry between Verity Branco, Mark Scheibmeir and Smaranda Luna that should not be missed. Branco and Scheibmeir do an excellent job of portraying a couple struggling to reconnect, as demonstrated through everything from rants about disease and the configuration of knock-knock jokes. Smaranda Luna almost steals the show as Dr. Prospescu. Whether she’s trying to sell new age therapies with slightly inappropriate touching or making fun of her Romanian accent during “lost in translation” moments. Even when Dr. Propsecu reveals her true nature, you still like her because she is so funny.
Writer Steven Moulds does an excellent job of creating a well-balanced dramedy. This play could have easily become a melodrama about a couple battling disease, but Georgia’s loss of laughter creates an inherent need for comedy in the lives of these characters that lead to the full recovery of their authentic selves. After all, laughter is the best medicine for depression, right? Well done.
* * *
Written by Steven Fife
Directed by Yuval Shrem
Performances: June 13, 2013 – June 30, 2013
The Actor’s Garden
1306 N. Wilton Place
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tickets and additional information: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1375
Your Authentic Self
Written by Steve Moulds
Directed by David Hickey
Produced by Mixtape Theatre Company
Performances: 20, 2013 – June 24, 2013
Theatre of Note
1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tickets and additional information: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1222