Before I tell you the fun story around this new play, I have to give you the headline: Transition is excellent, all the way around. I’ll get to the specifics in a minute, but first, the backstory.
Very rarely does one get to know about a play from its very inception, and then see it all the way to opening night. It’s very exciting when it happens, and that’s what just happened for me with this play, which imagines what was said in that November 10th meeting between President Obama and President-elect Orange Hitler. (I’m sorry, but I can’t even bear to write that buffoon’s name.)
Here’s a bit of background. Several years ago, at a children’s birthday party, of all places, I was introduced to journalist, and now author of Transition, Ray Richmond. He kindly told me that he was a big fan of my show at the time, Karen’s Restaurant Revue, and asked to do a profile on me for one of the publications he wrote for back then. I think it was either the LA Times or LA Weekly. But time passed, and we never got around to it. (And I had already been featured in every newspaper and magazine in town at that point, some of them even twice, so I didn’t follow-up on my end. Shame.)
Fast forward to last year, when Ray Richmond sent me a Facebook friend request, which I immediately accepted. (Trust me—that’s rare. I have fewer pals on that site than most everyone I know, and that’s on purpose. But, when I have the time, I enjoy reading what intelligent, like-minded people, such as Ray, have to say.)
So then, the horrible election season began, and Ray and I were in sync about what should happen. When the fool won, (which becomes a bigger travesty every day,) we were, along with Mr. X, a trio of the most crushed people I know.
And then, as soon as that depressing White House meeting took place, Ray started writing Facebook posts about it. And he jokingly (or so I thought) said that he ought to turn his thoughts on the matter into a play. Within two months, he had done just that! How amazing is that?! Many people say they’re writing a play, or a book, or a film, but who ever actually does it?! I’ve been threatening to write my memoir for years now, but just can’t find the time. But Ray Richmond got ’er done. Wow. Good for him.
So, after he conducted a play reading of Transition in January, (which, sadly, I had to miss—as I said, I’m always time-constrained,) he has now mounted a full production at a little theatre in Hollywood. In just four months! It’s really quite unbelievable. (And no stone was left unturned in the production.)
And I was happy to be invited to the opening night, so I can now review it for you. (Thank goodness I liked it, right?!)
Everything about this production is well done, from the authentic set, (which includes a painted-on carpet,) to the props, to the wig and white spots around the eyes of the Trump character, to the writing, casting, and direction, and, most of all, the clever lines and the performances. The physicalities of the two men are even correct.
The actors kept my attention the whole time, which is hard for a cast of basically just two to do. I give credit to both of them for that. Major kudos to both of them for capturing the essence of the men they are portraying without getting into doing outright impressions of them. The much easier job goes to Harry S. Murphy as Orange Hitler. There’s so much about that fool to latch onto! And he does it well.
But I was actually more impressed with Joshua Wolf Coleman as Obama because that is the much, much harder role to play, while making it entertaining. He is more or less the straight man, but his reactions are perfect, and his little speech inflections, like when he says, “Donald,” are spot-on.
And, I also must give props to young Trevor Alkazian, who plays Obama’s aide. He doesn’t have much to do in the show, but, unlike most other young actors who get a role like this, he stays right in his lane; he doesn’t try to make more out of it than there is on the page. Both Mr. X and I really enjoyed him.
I must tell you, though, that in-between all the laughs there is a depression, knowing that, even though this exact conversation is only imagined, the evil of the buffoon is real. This play, for all the laughs, reminds us that there are so many important national topics that Orange Hitler is ignorant about. And we have to face the fact that, even if he gets put out of power before the four year term is up, we still have to deal with his dangerous puppeteers for that length of time.
When Transition had been going on for about seventy-five minutes, (which meant that there were only five-ish minutes left,) I found myself wondering just how they were going to wrap it all up. I really couldn’t imagine a neat ending. But it was perfect! I hope I’m not ruining a surprise, but, right after the duo leaves the office, a TV in there comes on showing footage of the real dudes that day. And that is actually a very smooth “transition!” Credit goes to whoever came up with that bit of smarts.
But wait—the show is not entirely over even then! All of a sudden, out comes Ray Richmond’s son, Dylan, who raps his own composition, Divide, to continue the theme. And guess what? We could understand every word!!! That put a very upbeat end to the whole evening, so please stay in your seat until Dylan is done and the lights come on.
And I must add a few words about the venue. I had never heard of the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood before. I’ve been to just about every little theatre along that stretch of Santa Monica, but I guess I never went that far up it because I had never even noticed it. But I loved it! The lobby is big and comfortable, with lots of couches and chairs, and the seating inside the theatre itself is good, as well. There are under fifty seats, but I still felt like I was in an audience, and not right on top of the actors. And there are four rows that have just two seats on one side of the aisle, which I love—no need to be crowded in.
Since this was opening night, there was a lovely little reception in the spacious lobby after the show. All theaters should learn from this one—not a Costco platter in sight! It was all creative little bites, so there was not much waste, we could all try everything without being selfish to the guests behind us on the line, and best of all, there were signs telling us exactly what each tidbit was! So appreciated. And that schmoozing helped us “transition” on to the rest of our Saturday night.
Transition running through April 16, 2017
Lounge Theatre 1 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. Hollywood 323-960-4418 www.plays411.com/transition