This week in Theater
Written by Stephen Sachs
Review by Rose Desena
How about a little Flamenco with that Xanax?
Heart Song, a warm and complex exploration of loss, tradition, myth and faith that is so extraordinary I wanted to jump up and shout “bravo” when the lights came up. For some reason, I held myself back and I don’t know why because it deserved that much and more. Some people think a critic should lack emotion so you don’t give anything away before the review, so I behave.
Stephen Sachs brings the Fountain Theater another exceptional script, rich in intensity, graced with history and splashed with some good comedy. Heart Song is a true treat. It will make you laugh one minute and sad the next, but in the end you will be thrilled.
Pamela Dunlap is fabulous as Rochelle the frumpy, overweight, neurotic Jewish women, who is trying to get her life back. The poor dear is doing her best to deal with her mother’s death and the last part of her ceremony, which I was surprised to learn happens a year after the burial.
Plagued by guilt and insecurity Rochelle manages to get help from her massage therapist who drags her to a Flamenco class full of women who are all seeking their own solace. You will love Dunlap; she is endearing, funny and a joy to watch as she delivers one amusing line after another.
Tamlyn Tomita (Tina), who plays a Japanese-American, is the pushy therapist who deals with her own guilt in regards to her mother. What is it with women and mothers that make for such good entertainment?
Flamenco opens the door for more history and tradition. The Flamenco teacher Maria Bermudez (Katarina) shares her world of Flamenco as she lulls us with her stories about her gypsy background and her Andalucía family history. Her feet stomp with fury as she dances freeing her body of her pain and anger. Katarina’s students learn to let go of their sorrow through the power of the dance, and the security of having a tribe, in this case it’s called the circle.
Sachs does not stop at Flamenco; He uses the funeral service that Rochelle has to complete as another door to expose the pain that has been passed down from generations, the pain of living with religious or cultural persecution. All three women, one Japanese, one a Russian Jew, and the other an African-American (Juanita Jennings) have similar tales of brutal suffering and injustices that their parents or grandparents had endured.
They carry the burdens as if it were some sort of birthmark that can’t be removed. As the play came to a close, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Is it time to let go, free the new generations of the birth marks?” Both women share their stories consoling Rochelle, while letting her know she is not alone and giving her permission to move on.
Shirley Jo Finney, is one of my favorite directors; I loved “In the Red Brown Water” and “Central Avenue”. Her talent is flawless and inspiring. She manages to bring the best out in everything she touches. All the acting in “Heart Song” is superb as well as the production quality. Stephen Sachs is a creative gem. His writing is rich in history and he has a knack for leaving the audience with a message that you feel compelled to explore.
I consider myself privileged to have The Fountain Theater here in my back yard. This is a must see but I would hurry and get tickets; the Fountain Theater often sells out.
Written by Stephen Sachs
Directed by Shirley Jo Finney
Choreographer: Marie Bermudez
Cast: Pamela Dunlap, Tamlyn Tomita, Juanita Jennings, Andrea Dantas, Mindy Krasner, Elissa Kyriacou, Sherrie Lewandowski, Maria Bermudez
The Fountain Theatre
5060 Fountain Ave. Los Angeles CA 90029
(323) 663-1525 or www.FountainTheatre.com
Runs: Wednesday thru Saturday @ 8 pm; Sunday @ 2pm