The heart and the mind forge a powerful combination, yet a delicate dance exists between them. As with almost all things, losing control can often lead to disaster”¦ or perhaps – truth. Playwrights 6 and Open Fist Theatre bring to the stage the world premiere of Fernando Richardson”™s Treacherous Brain. This refreshingly original play is written by Monica Trasandes.
Review by Tracy Lynn Schafer
When Fernando (Roberto Montesinos) is submitted to Cedars Sinai for brain surgery his wife Kate (Natalie Sutherland), and best friend Patrick (Mark Slater), have no idea just how little they know about him. However, with the help of a swollen brain, heavy sedation, and a sorted past, Fernando”™s secret life quickly reveals itself. In a matter of days Fernando completely turns his world, and everyone around him, upside down. In this serious yet comedy-driven story, we are invited to take a trip into one man”™s brain, temporarily stuck in his past, and watch him put all the pieces back together again.
Expertly directed by Andre Barron, each actor in this cast played his or her role damn near flawlessly. Nothing felt overacted or forced and all of the dialogue delivered true and, surprisingly enough, relatable. In this day and age, too often we bear witness to original plays that aren”™t so original – or worse – too original, leaving the audience alienated, confused, alone, and lost. Often we are left searching for meaning in the abstract, when the viewing shouldn”™t have to be brain surgery. However, Fernando Richardson”™s Treacherous Brain had everything to do with brain surgery and rocked every synapse, as intended.
Roberto Montesinos plays Fernando, the namesake of the play, and boy oh boy does he knock it out of the park! Montesinos”™ role was quite complex: balancing the logic of the brain and the poetry of the heart. This endearing actor walked that tight rope so convincingly that sometimes it was hard to distinguish performance from reality. Montesinos”™ performance was organic, funny, charming, romantic, and genuine. He was perfect in this role.
Nevertheless it was most certainly a group effort to create such a phenomenal, comedic, experience. Lyn Ross played The Nurse and brought just the right amount of sassy attitude each time she came to the stage. Paula Fins played Mercedes, Fernando”™s mother, and her timing and delivery were enough to make me want to hug her by the end. She added such a wonderful and subtle dimension to this already poignant story.
Of course this show would not have struck such a nerve in me had it not been for the performances that juggled both comedy and drama. Responsible for bearing the weight of his wife (Natalie Sutherland) best friend (Mark Slater) and mystery woman (Karla Zamudio), these three actors were wonderful. It was like watching a magnificent tango, being snapped and pulled in multiple directions, uncertain how to feel about getting caught up in the beauty and the intensity of it all. Montesinos performance was only made better by the performances of his cast mates. They should all be honored to work amongst such a talented ensemble.
Currently playing TONIGHT at Open Fist Theatre, Fernando Richardson”™s Treacherous Brain closes on Thursday, June 9th, 2011.
Fernando Richardson”™s Treacherous Brain
6209 Santa Monica Boulevard
Hollywood, Ca. 90038
***Thursdays ONLY, 8pm***
Approximately 120 minutes, with one 10-minute intermission
Discounts available at GoldStar and LAStage Tix
Purchase tickets here www.openfist.org
or call (323) 882-6912
About the theatre:
The Open Fist Theatre Company was founded in 1990 by five graduates of Cal State Fullerton. Under the Artistic Directorship of Ziad Hamzeh, the Company immediately established its reputation as a cutting edge ensemble, willing to tackle difficult plays. Under the leadership of present Artistic Director Martha Demson, the company has evolved into a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members.
For its first fifteen seasons, the Company”™s physical plant was located at 1625 North La Brea. Over the years, the Company built it into one of the most innovative and technically advanced venues on the 99-seat theatre scene. Prior to the Open Fist tenure, the building housed the Troupers (vaudevillians), Bob Hope”™s dance rehearsal hall, a puppet theatre and a nightclub. The loss and ultimate destruction of that property in 2005 came as a practical and spiritual blow to the Company. In an effort to remain in Hollywood, the Company joined with the Community Redevelopment Agency Hollywood to study the problem of arts retention. The resulting program HARP (Hollywood Arts Retention Program) is currently working with 6 theatres (of which the Open Fist is one) and 6 education/arts institutions with the goal of finding permanent affordable housing solutions for each. The program is currently in Year 2 and the Open Fist is close to completing its strategic plan, a prerequisite for partnership with developers and the City of Los Angeles. During this interim period, the Company has taken up residency in the former home of The Actors”™ Gang (another casualty of the extraordinary increase in lease costs – The Actors”™ Gang relocated to Culver City with financial support coming from that community.) The Company is able to afford the unsustainable rent due to the generosity of lead Board Member Jim Gauer, who committed to four years support while the Company endeavors to find a more rational solution with the CRA Hollywood.
The name of the Open Fist Theatre Company comes from two principles we believe to be exceedingly important. The first is the notion that an Open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas is essential. The second is that the Fist, a sign of determination and even force, is necessary for the theatre to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness. At all times the Open Fist Theatre Company has remained dedicated to the pursuit of these two ambitions.