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Theater Fri Oct 25 2013

The Goddess at The Artistic Home: Sad Story About Celebrity

The Goddess is a play that might be about a famous blonde movie star with double initials, or, it might be the story of a small-town teenager from a broken family, mesmerized by movie magazines of the 50s, who eventually fought her way to a movie career. Either way, Paddy Chayefsky's play is about love and rejection, alcohol, drugs and celebrity--a story that can't have a happy ending.

TheGoddess-GB.jpg

McEvilly and Stark. Photo by Tim Knight.

Emily Ann Faulkner (Lee Stark) fascinates the boys in her high school but really is focused on a way out of her dead-end small-town life. She meets and marries a handsome soldier (Daniel McEvilly) who happens to be the son of a movie star. (McEvilly has a nice monologue where he reflects on the meaning of life, and on his life. He spent a year and a half fighting in the Spanish Civil War, came home and went to war again.) Emily sees him as a path to her future. He isn't, of course.

The two have a child, whom Emily rejects, just as her mother rejected her in early scenes. Ava Morse, as young Emily, sweetly tugs at our hearts.

Emily Ann turns herself into a starlet named Rita Shawn and climbs her way from bit parts to starring roles. She marries again, this time to a retired boxer named Dutch Seymour (Josh Odor). They are happy briefly but his dissatisfaction with his retirement conflicts with her embrace of Hollywood celebrity society. She also embraces the drinking and pill-taking of that scene.

Director John Mossman, who adapted the original film script for the stage, makes good use of the somewhat constrained space (more later on that) to tell the story and keep us following Rita's downward spiral. He uses newsreel-type videos to chronicle the date, time and location, as the settings move from 1932 small town to 1957 Hollywood.

While the scenes are at times choppy and a bit disconnected, Stark gives a compelling performance as an unsophisticated small-town girl who learns what she needs to do to get ahead. Odor also provides an adept physical characterization of an ex-fighter.

Probably the high point of the production is the costuming by Lynn Sandberg. Rita's costumes--dresses, suits, furs, sunwear and shoes, shoes, shoes--are beautifully reminiscent of 50s style. The on-stage costume changes are handled smoothly and allow us to see the equally beautiful silky lingerie. While a few friends mentioned to me that they thought the on-stage changes were distracting, I thought they were done effectively and supported the storyline of the show.

The Goddess is a familiar script for The Artistic Home; they have used it for scene studies since the 1998 formation of their actors' training program, based on the Sanford Meisner technique. Mossman's note in the playbill describes the effort required to gain rights to produce the play from the Chayefsky estate and its law firms. (Chayefsky died at 58 in 1981.) The Goddess was written as a film script but Mossman, despite many efforts, could not get permission to adapt it for the stage. Finally, he found the right source; the rights were granted after he submitted a draft.

This production overall, is a mixed success. Most of the performances are strong and production values are good, but there's a bit of the soap opera about the script and, at times, scenes do not hang together. One more thing: I found the audio effect in the Artistic Home space troublesome. It's a 45-seat enclosed black box with a high ceiling. Unfortunately, during highly emotional scenes, Stark's voice becomes too high-pitched. Her volume could be reduced and still retain its emotional tone.

The Goddess runs until November 17 at The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand Ave. The performance is two hours, 20 minutes, with one intermission. Tickets are $28-$32 for shows at 7:30pm Thursdays, 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 3pm Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 866-811-4111.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

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