If you are interested in a play about a talented poet besieged with Schizophrenia, look no further than Collaborative Artists Ensemble’s production of John Olive’s “Standing On My Knees” playing at the Sherry Theatre in
the North Hollywood Arts District through June 2nd.
This is the story of a gifted wordsmith who must decide whether the mental illness raging within her is who she is or if she can resurrect her once-thriving poetry career which probably led to the madness.
The widely produced and award-winning Olive reaches for the heavens here and succeeds by keeping the plot, structure and writing simple.
The language is naked, raw and seamless in its genuine and sincere beauty.
There are no hurdles, Mount Everests or San Fernando Valleys to speak of, only streets and boulevards of hope, faith, suffering, and in the end, alcohol-fueled institutionalization.
The playwright’s words are arresting and electric as they take us on a journey of self-discovery, pharmacology, therapy and creativity rekindled.
The ache and strength in the dialogue are overwhelming and strike a loud and noble chord with us, the audience, from beginning to end.
Director Steve Jarrard keeps the actors’ movements, purposes and missions minimalistic in nature.
The Managing Director of the company allows the thespians the mental, emotional and spiritual room to be themselves, and in so doing, tickles us, the audience, with his wisdom, charm and devotion to the crafts of
directing and acting.
The Southern California native and director of many of the ensemble’s previous plays in its 12 years of existence, proves once more to be one of the most underrated theatre directors in Los Angeles, if not anywhere
Jarrard has assembled a gifted cast that comprehends the power and sway of Olive’s simplicity.
Brian Kavanaugh (Robert) who almost steals the play with a confident and impressively natural turn as the boyfriend and lover.
The veteran Chicago actor’s human portrayal and uncommon sensitivity mesmerized this critic. Kavanaugh adds soul and heart to every moment he is on stage.
This is a wonderfully talented performer who helps make this production the gift it is.
But once again it is Meg Wallace (Catherine) who runs away with the play and knocks this one way out of the park.
The New York City-trained actress’ humility and frailty simply shimmer on stage like a well-cut diamond.
From moment one to moment last, the Collaborative Artists Ensemble founding member and veteran performer rules her domain and remains motivated, passionate and pure.
The Marymount Manhattan College student specializes in playing female characters with a penchant for insanity, but here does it with such realism, rhyme and reason that we, the audience,
actually believe that she is Schizophrenic. The line between Wallace’s own sanity and those of the characters she plays is thin, yet thick enough to grant us, the audience, a look at a unique and rare actress at the
height of her powers who is not interested in anything less than near perfection, clarity and sunshine.
This critic hopes to see the underrated Wallace on the stages of North Hollywood and Los Angeles again soon.
Furthering the message of the play are Jarrard’s intimate and innovative production design and Jason Ryan Lovett’s penetrating lighting design.
In the end, “Standing On My Knees” succeeds because of, not despite, its sensitive, soulful and accurate photograph and portrayal of mental illness, which in 1981, the year it was written, was still swept under the rug
and not talked about openly.
The play touches on the harrowing trip many mental patients must make back to a sort of sobriety or sanity, and it does it with a sense of possibility and pride.
The show also underscores the almost sacred connection between creativity and madness and how psychotropic medication either helps or hinders that purpose.
Few theatre companies possess the courage, deftness and diligence to pull-off a production with such fertile subject matter with the wisdom, understanding and compassion of
Collaborative Artists Ensemble.
Play after play after play, this rock ’em, sock ’em small, but wildly gifted, acting company trail blazes forests and meadows other ensembles are simply not prepared, talented or adept at irrigating.
Simply put, with this return to the company’s inaugural production, Collaborative Artists Ensemble tames the demons, alerts the angels and sounds the alarm that it aims to compete with any
and every theatre acting ensemble in the city and beyond, and emerge victorious.
More power to this fervent, free and fiery acting troupe as it prepares for its Autumn production with all the conviction and gusto of a galloping Hippopotamus.
Kudos to all involved.
By Radomir Vojtech LuzaTheatre, Film and Book CriticAt the Theatre with Radomir Luza
|At the Theatre with Radomir Luza|
Showtimes:Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM,Sundays at 7 PM,Tickets: $20.00Information and Reservations: (323) 860-6569WHERE: The Sherry Theatre, 11052 W. Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601