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September 11,  2004


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T H E A T E R   R E V I E W  -  Good  -  Ark Theatre Company

Ark Theatre Company
by C.P. Taylor
directed by Richard Tatum

featuring Mary Elizabeth Barrett, Tracy Eliott, David Ghilardi, Ross Gottstein, Jocelyn Jackson, JoAnna Jocelyn, John Murphy, Donald Robert Stewart, Brandon Turner


1647 South La Cienega Boulevard
For tickets 323-969-1707

Ghilardi great for "GOOD"

The Arc theatre Company allows one of it's own to create a powerhouse performance that carries the cast and the production of the current play on the boards, GOOD, written by CP Taylor and directed by Richard Tatum.

First performed in 1981, Taylor 's play is set in the 1930's, as Hitler and his Party began to catch up average citizens into the realm of their machinations and manipulate and hypnotize the national psych into murder. The character of Halder represents a haunting exploration of one man's gradual "descent by degrees" into the heart of the fear and ideas that created the nightmare of Nazi Germany. Halder is a Frankfurt literary professor who lectures on Goethe and is perhaps a typical warped momma's boy at the top of the play lured in and out of musical trances that transport him to theories and worlds outside his own existence.  How the character transitions from writing a novel advocating euthanasia because he can't bear his blind mothers pain to committing the acts he is capable of in the end is a cautionary tale for all watching and a form a neurosis for our Halder himself, brilliantly played by David Ghilardi.

Director Richard Tatum, with skilled and deft hand infuses both his program notes and the production with clear imagery correlating then and now, the Party of Hitler and the carried away patriotism of today's American culture that is little by little, snuffing out dissent by degrees itself. Thankfully, Tatum does this without taking liberties with the script and the underlying commentary does not overshadow Ghilardis performance.

The Supporting cast runs the gamut from excellent to amateur; it takes real chops to share any stage with a talented lead and if there are weakness they are made all the more glaring by contrast. JoAnna Jocelyn as Halders mother delivers a great performance both in the physicality of a dying woman and the intense focus that she must have to hold on to the remnants of the human being she once was. Both determined and completely infantile in the same moment, Jocelyn embodies the part and provides a character that is clearly the catalyst for her sons novel.

Ross Grottstein's character of Maurice starts out strong and is played for then and for now; the character as everyman, which Grottstein pulls off admirably. To play a self hating Jew who would turn his back on all he is and represents for a chance to assimilate and eventually just escape takes a great degree of passion. Grottstein appeared to underplay the growing panic and desperation that comes to a climax when he realizes he will not escape eventuality and because of that we lose a key part of the tragedy; the point at which the cost of selling one's soul and one friends becomes clear.

Mary Elizabeth Barrett as Helen, Halders frumpy, old, sexually unavailable wife is so depressed and self pitying that it is difficult to see the characters humanity. Jocelyn Jackson as Anne seems a little too young and too green to provide the spark and depth acting wise to play opposite a performer like Ghilardi. She has talent but is overwhelmed when sharing the stage with this particular actor. Brandon Turner does a great turn as Freddie and Donald Robert Stewart gives an unadulterated perfect performance interpreting his directors take on the politics of past and present. Tracy Eliot and John Murphy round out the cast and do strong work in allowing eight different characters to bloom among them, especially Elliot as Bouller and Elizabeth, and John Murphy as each of his characters including a great start to the top of the show.

The set was sparse and the stage extremely dirty. I always wonder why smaller companies can't put a little more thought and effort into productions that may not have a budget, to take the play space out of the realm of a class and into the play itself, but none of that mattered as the night went on and we were taken into the spell that is Halders rapture and Ghilardi's master work. It is the strength of his performance that elevates all around him and a talented director that makes the most of his company's members. The Arc Theatre Company once again proves it has the talent to pull off great works in it's production of "Good", and we can all identify with the authors intent that freedom and morality can be lost if we as individuals and as a society do not remain vigilant. - Kevin Kindlin


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