"The End of It," an intriguing and intimate play at Los Angeles' Matrix Theatre, is surprisingly involving considering the title gives it away.
Playing through Oct. 20, this new play by Paul Coates tells the story of a couple breaking up, but the two character show is shared by three different couples: straight, gay and lesbian. They basically play the same parts with each couple taking turns on the stage and many times overlapping, giving the break-up a more powerful and almost stereophonic ending.
This inter-connecting of characters is pure genius, making each line and scene have different meanings when it's told by different actors, playing the part from a different sexual point of view.
The scene opens with writer Coates himself as the straight half of the Drew/Joanna characters, balancing well with Kelly Coffield Park as his wife Joanna. They just finished a dinner party at it's 1am and they are gossiping about their guests, striking a true and honest chord reminding us all that we may love our friends and families, but there is almost something to say and dissect.
After awhile, Park's Joanna goes into the kitchen (off stage) and out comes David Youse's Joseph and Coates is soon replaced by William Franklin Barker as Andrew. Before long, the gay Joseph and Andrew are replaced by lesbians Jo and Dee (Ferrell Marshall and Wendy Radford).
The pace picks up when, once the audience is hip to the flow, often times different Drew/Andrew/Dee's are on stage at the same time and perhaps some times answering questions from not their own partner but a different Joanna/Joseph/Jo.
Sure I've made it sound confusing, but it works!
Coates writing is on-point and real. It's a great match for Ovation Award winning director Nick DeGruccio's staging in which he unblurs the lines between the different actors playing essential the same characters. Kudos also should go Francois-Pierre Couture's great scenic design and Morgan DeGroff's costumes. Couture's living room set is fresh and inviting and just the place you think these characters would dwell. Further, DeGroff's use of blue colors for the Andrews and purple for the Joe's help the audience keep everyone straight...so to speak.
The cast is also amazing. In particular, Park completely shocked me as she vacillates between comedy and melodrama. From TV's "In Living Color," I remember her as a true comedic actress back in the day. Wow, though, this woman has chops and can easily make you laugh and turn on a dime to bring you to tears. But she's not the only one who captivates. Youse's gay Joseph has you rooting for him in his desperate pleas to give the relationship another try. He truly makes you feel that he's been in a 20 year relationship with his Andrew as he wears his heart on his sleeve. Wendy Radford brings a strong level-headed calmness to her Dee, finding nuiances to the character.
I happen to stumble on this show because whenever I go to LA, I check out the plays through www.plays411.net - it's really a site you should keep as your favorites as it is full of information about so many productions in Southern California.
In fact, if you sign up on their website, you get access to special discounts including half-priced ticket offers.
"The End of It" without a discount is only $30 - but if you look around, bet you can find a deal. Also, it's in the cool Hollywood Theatre Row area where many other great shows are as well as easy free street parking.
It plays Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 5pm. Call 323-960-4418 or visit www.plays411.com/theend. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.