If you want to see a play about the redemptive power of the human spirit rush don’t walk to the Los Angeles premiere of Richard Broadhurst’s Benched presented by The Interact Theatre Company at Avery Schreiber Theatre through March 24 in the NoHo Arts District.
The story involves an unhappy senior citizen who while making his way to his favorite bench in Central Park to think about what choices he may have left to make his life worth living, discovers the bench occupied by a stranger who seems determined to disrupt whatever plans he may have for himself.
Some may look at this play as a fairy tale with an imaginative yet unrealistic ending, but in art is any ending ultimately unrealistic? Certainly not this play which leaves the characters and the audience drowning in hope, resiliency and the power of love.
This twist on the Frank Capra-directed film “It’s A Wonderful Life” conjoins mankind’s need for meaning with that of contemporary religion’s new found obsession with angels like a set of new twins.
Indeed, if there is any question about the afterlife and how God may operate, this play attempts to answer it.
Broadhurst’s fiery language keeps the words flying at warp speed, but also stimulates the senses and soul.
The writing has an edge that even a snake oil salesman would be touched by, a very depth that drives each moment.
Anita Khanzadian’s direction is a calm and tranquilizing force that adds an element of humanity to the play. Khanzadian lends an air of sensitivity and spirituality to an already overflowing river.
Matt Fowler (Young Man) brightens the much-too-short second act with a spontaneity, feeling and sense-of-humor that reach the last row. Fowler is not to be forgotten.
Kelly Lohman (Katherine) is genuine, romantic, and deeply endearing as Max’s granddaughter. Without Lohman’s immediacy the play, and the first act, would not be what it is.
Eddie Jones (Max) gives a touching performance built on presence, instinct and tone. He convincingly gives a portrayal of such vulnerability and strength that you feel downright sad about his plight in the first act.
John Towey (Randall) is his character. Relaxed and confident, the Broadway and Off-Broadway veteran actor, eases his way into this critic’s consciousness with a truth and focus uncommon to many actors.
All in all, “Benched” is a play within a play that is original in its psychological width and breath.
If you think that your life is worthless, unnecessary and without merit, then this play will allow you some light and a lifeboat of perspective and purpose. It will give you a reason to live, to go on. And, really, what more can you ask for from a piece of art than that?
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sunday Matinees at 3pm
Avery Schreiber Theatre
11050 Magnolia Blvd.,NoHo, CA 91601
Admission: $25; Senior/Student: $20
Tickets: (818) 765-8732
Parking: Ample street parking & nearby lot parking