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TV Greats Shine in Play About Loss

Harry Hamlin and Loretta Swit play three characters each in a production that revolves around a tragic plane crash.

If a play about a plane crash is your thing look no further than the world premiere of Joshua Ravetch’s One November Yankee, presented by The NoHo Arts Center Ensemble at the NoHo Arts Center and running through Jan. 5.

The two-person play starring Harry Hamlin, best known from television’s LA Law, and Loretta Swit from the long-running TV series MASH, consists of four separate stories or chapters all centering on flight as a metaphor for loss, destruction or ruination. Hamlin and Swit each play three different characters.

It’s the aftermath of a plane crash and a brother and sister have survived, but all is not what it might seem as we travel to unexpected places and from the past to the present.

The stories work despite a tendency by Ravetch to make some of the characters outsiders, almost iconoclasts. 

The first section set in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art detailing a visual artist’s exhibition and the differences he has with his sister who commissioned the exhibit starts slowly and awkwardly. The two characters talk at each other not to each other.

But the play picks up momentum rather quickly.

The next two stories, especially the first one, set in the mountains of New Hampshire, are quite realistic and tragic as they concentrate on a plane crash and the death of a loved one, respectively.

The final chapter, a continuation of the first, rings true and joyful until the end.

Ravetch employs a deep and powerful intensity tinged with a sprinkling of compassion and love. But all in all, if you want a play about the goodness of God or the redeeming value of human existence go elsewhere.

As a director, Ravetch combines an adept flow with a haunting desperation that work in challenging the audience to look beyond the obvious and touched and moved this critic.

Hamlin (Ralph, Harry, Ronnie) has a unique stage presence that belies his obvious good looks and sex appeal. His honesty is real and provocative. It is marrow deep. His is a sincere and genuine portrait of three characters, each different and very much without a way out of their conundrum.

Swit (Maggie, Margo, Mia) emerges from a rather one-dimensional performance in the first story to a sensitive, giving and convincing portrayal of three women, all vulnerable, disappointed and angry.

Adding to the play are Dana Moran Williams’ set design, Luke Moyer’s lighting design, Jeff Gardner’s sound design and Kate Bergh’s costume design.         

In the end, One November Yankee, which began its life at the Pasadena Playhouse Hot House Reading Series and was then selected as a finalist in the Ojai Playwright’s Conference, hits enough right notes to make it a memorable and inspiring experience and exercise in metaphysics and existentialism.   

Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 3 p.m. There will be no performance on Thanksgiving. Ticket Prices: $30 for all performances. For Tickets call: 818-508-7101. NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd. (At Lankershim) in North Hollywood.

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