When the Asylum multi-theater space closed last year, it was a real blow to the Los Angeles theatre scene along Hollywood’s Theatre Row, where the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival takes place. Languishing for months, when it was announced the space had been purchased by Sacred Fools who planned to make it their new home, I was overjoyed. So imagine my excitement when it was announced Sacred Fools Theatre’s inaugural production in their new home at the Lillian Theater was going to be “Past Time,” Padraic Duffy’s World Premiere comedy, directed by Jeremy Aldridge. On Friday, Feb. 19, I attended the Grand Opening of both the space and the play, and both were absolutely spectacular.
“Past Time” is Sacred Fools sixth premiere from Playwright Padraic Duffy, managing director of the theatre company. It’s a hilarious and touching love-letter to the many colors of life, told with many, many, many painted unicorns on the totally re-configured space inside the Lillian Theater, now with 88 seats facing an up close and intimate proscenium stage. It’s an amazing feat of transformation, given Sacred Fools last production ended at their former location just 63 days ago. “Check your shoes for wet paint,” we were warned before the performance began. But even if the paint was not quite dry, the space was ready, not only for their first production but also as the planned center of the upcoming 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival. Welcome back L.A.
Just like the new multi-colored paint on the walls, “Past Time” focuses of noticing all the colors in our own lives, both emotional as well as physical. All five characters in the play have somehow lost their way along their journey, not quite staying in touch with who they really are due to loss or misplaced expectations. And as it turns out, sometimes you have to be someone else to remember who you are.
The play begins with Lou (French Stewart in all his glorious emotional frenzy) and his good-hearted friend James (Leon Russom) sitting at a small table in the den of James and Delilah’s home, arguing about what color and how to paint the many boxes of plastic unicorns needed for sale in Lou’s new kiosk at the local mall, which just happens to be right in front of the candle shop where Delilah (Ruth Silveira) works part time. The comic interplay between the two men sets the humorous tone for the rest of the heartwarming play.
James and Delilah’s grandson Chris (Josh Weber) has been living in their home since his parents split when he was 9. Now 26, his girlfriend Meredith (Julia Griswold, the perfect Millennial with too may choices) is leaving him because he’s just too immature to handle her emotional needs. What is his plan to get her back? He convinces his grandfather James to go out on a date with her, playing the role of “Chris” since he rightly believes the new “Chris” will say all of the right things that will make the reluctant Meredith fall in love with him. This is all a bit confusing for James‘ candle-obsessed wife and best friend Lou, who just wants to forget his own loss by bringing beauty into the world by selling the brightly colored unicorns.
Soon everyone is playing each other’s characters as they struggle to rekindle their relationships and remember who they are. Of course, soon the older couple starts to play the younger couple and vice versa, causing each of them to re-examine their own lives and choices. The wisdom of the elderly versus the enthusiasm and joy of youth collide in many fun-loving and hysterical encounters between all of the characters, most often played out in two-person dialogues. Poignant and funny, this play reminds us to enjoy life’s every moment, and to notice each and every opportunity to experience wonder along the way whether expressed in magnificent colors or deeply felt emotions.
A multi-media announcement of each scene shown on the rainbow-hued proscenium lets you know exactly what is going to happen next, but it is the magical skills of the cast, fast-paced direction by Aldridge, and often foul-mouthed but totally modern and realistic language by Duff, that make each moment so true to life that no doubt you will see a bit of yourself in each of their emotional struggles during their everyday attempts to achieve their goals. And who can’t use some great laughs along the way?
Many thanks to Sacred Fools for reminding us where there is art, there is life.
“Past Time” is presented by Sacred Fools at The Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood, 90038, running through March 26 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. (No performance on Sunday, Feb. 28.) Tickets are $25 and available at www.sacredfools.org