October 16, 2021 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Neil Koenigsberg’s “Off The King’s Road” West Coast Premiere At Odyssey Theatre:

To do a riff on a recent credit card commercial that ends with the spokesperson saying: “What’s in your wallet?” – that tag line could be rewritten to “What’s in your suitcase?”

What’s in the character of Matt Browne’s (Tom Bower) suitcase is not the usual requisite travel items as he’s packed some bizarre things, including a blow-up doll named Jenna purchased from Larry Flint’s store, mouthwash, condoms, and a framed photo of his deceased wife Betty to whom he was married for 38 years. To complete the contents of his suitcase are the two “Vs,” Viagra and Valium.

Still grieving over the loss of his wife, under the advice of his therapist, Dr. Yablonsky, well played by Thaddeus Shafer, a shrink with his own marital problems, Browne decides to take a trip to London to try to pull himself out of his depressed state. He chooses a small boutique hotel called Off The King’s Road, yes, the same title as the play, which is a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre.

The suffering shrink advises him to put a blackboard in his hotel room and make a list of possible cultural things to do – art, music, stage, museums, etc. Not on the list was visiting a Serbian hooker from Zagreb by the name of Sheena, played by Maria Zyrianova. Her business plan is pay now, play later. Sheena, who might be a hooker with a heart, has an unseen violent boyfriend who is not overly happy with her line of work. During Browne’s first visit to her cramped den of inequity, the only sexual favor he wants is to lay his head on her lap. During another visit, he tries to engage her in a conversation about Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries’, and, of course, she has no idea what he’s talking about other than she loves Rambo.

Completing the cast of characters is Freddie, the obsequious manager of the hotel played to the max by Michael Uribes, and Ellen Mellman, a slightly daffy, dowdy, English woman totally devoted to her (unseen) Himalayan cat. Casey Kramer’s Mellman gets below the surface of her character revealing some interesting layers.

With regard to the direction, I have great respect for Amy Madigan’s work as an award-winning actress and really wanted to like her directorial work in this play. However, her direction is fraught with problems, beginning with a poor, fractured script and the awkward staging of what can easily be referred to, as a series of short, not necessarily connected, scenes. There were interminable, overly long blackouts so that if there was any possibility of a through-line to the action, that was continuously stomped on. The stage “business”* was excessive and sometimes the action stopped while the business was executed, versus execution in conjunction with the dialogue.

Given that this is not a well-written play, the truth is if the lead role of Matt Browne was played by let’s say Madigan’s brilliant actor husband, Ed Harris, the experience might actually have been enjoyable. But Browne’s performance didn’t get much past line readings, dropping his voice at the end of each sentence. Despite his long list of theatrical credits, he did not have the stage presence to carry the lead in what is a problematic piece of material. Adding to the failure of this production was the cramped set design by Joel Daavid of both the hotel room and Sheena’s apartment, and a clawing, disparate sound design by Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski. I have seen their creative work before and it’s usually top-notch, but this time the results were not up to their usual level of excellence.

There’s that old show biz axiom that says, “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage,” and Off The King’s Road could be the poster child for that theatrical truism.

*Stage business refers to the gestures and activities an actor executes as part of a scene.

Odyssey Theatre

2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025

Run: Fridays & Saturdays – 8 pm; Sundays – 2 pm

Closing: Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015

Tickets: $25-$30

Reservations: 323.960.7712 or www.plays411.com/kingsroad

Related Posts

Closing Celebration for Hispanic Heritage Month Today

October 14, 2021

October 14, 2021

This Friday, October 15, the Santa Monica community is invited to a closing ceremony for Santa Monica’s first Hispanic Heritage...

Sneakertopia Brings the History and Culture of Sneakers to Life

October 12, 2021

October 12, 2021

Sneakertopia is the ultimate expression of art and culture for all things sneakers offering a massive in-person experience paired with...

Review: Ted Lasoo Season 2

September 19, 2021

September 19, 2021

Rated TV-MA 12 30-Minute Episodes Released on Apple TV+, one 30-minute episode each Friday from July 23rd to October 8th...

Santa Monica Partners with McCabe’s Guitar Shop for a Reimagined Annual Concert Series

September 14, 2021

September 14, 2021

Americana in the Park, a New Free Concert Series Launches this September and October By Sam Catanzaro The City of...

Auditions Open for HVS Conservatory’s Inaugural Vocal Program

September 5, 2021

September 5, 2021

Hollywood Vocal Studios and Adreana Gonzalez are proud to announce the founding of Hollywood Vocal Studios (HVS) Conservatory—a post-secondary school...

Final Weekend of Marina Drive-In Movie Summer Series With New Movies Added

August 28, 2021

August 28, 2021

WHERE: Marina del Rey Boat Launch Ramp, 13477 Fiji Way at Parking Lot #2 COST: $20 per vehicle, per movie...

Calico Yacht Charter Provides Luxury Water Experience For All Ages

August 6, 2021

August 6, 2021

By Toi Creel Everyone goes to the beach on the Westside. It’s part of the culture. But imagine experiencing the...

SMhopes Brings Artists Together to Reimagine the Post Pandemic World

July 15, 2021

July 15, 2021

Artist Paula Goldman in collaboration with Santa Monica Art Recovery displays art and poetry by local artists throughout the city....

Marina Drive-In Movie Summer Series Underway

July 9, 2021

July 9, 2021

Gather with your family and friends to watch movies by the sea in Marina del Rey. Marina Drive-In Movie Nights,...

Iconic Aero Theatre on Montana Ave Has Reopened

July 1, 2021

July 1, 2021

American Cinematheque, the nonprofit cultural-arts and film-preservation group has reopened the doors of the Aero theatre on Montana Ave, learn...

Conscious Designs That Drive The Message Home

June 16, 2021

June 16, 2021

“Black Lives Matter” – The rallying cry that went from a hashtag to a global movement, and a designer that...

In-Person Events Are Back with Summer Swing Nights: Jazzy Vocals plus Live Big Band – Now with Tap Dance, Swing Lessons, Vendors to Benefit Museum

June 10, 2021

June 10, 2021

Live, in-person entertainment is bringing out happy fans of all ages for Summer Swing Nights: Drive-In Edition. The concert fundraiser features the...

Ben & Jerry’s Closes Santa Monica Shop

May 13, 2021

May 13, 2021

First West Coast Ben & Jerry’s closes up shop on Main Street  By Kerry Slater Ben & Jerry’s has closed...