CRITICS PICK! - Backstage West
"[a] gritty thriller...unkempt and intriguing!" - LA Times

Recipient of two 2002 Garland Award Honorable Mentions!
PERFORMANCE - Adam Bitterman
SCENIC DESIGN - Carlos Fedos


Directed by Maurie Lord

Adam Bitterman - Paul Byrne - Victor Isaac
Crystal Keith - Johanna McKay - Sam R. Ross


Jimmy is a hardened cynic; as a human rights lawyer, he's seen the worst extremes of human behavior.  After his life crumbles around him, he finds that the afterlife is also full of unpleasant surprises.

Written by celebrated Canadian playwright George F. Walker, Heaven is an uncompromising exploration of race, religion and cultural identity... a black comedy so pointed and sharp that you'll laugh until it hurts.

On the Sacred Fools Mainstage...
November 14 - December 21, 2002
Thursday - Saturday @ 8pm

Admission: $15
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
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No performance Thanksgiving (Thurs, Nov. 28)

Produced by Joe Jordan
Stage Manager - Heatherlynn Lane
Assistant Stage Manager / "Karlette" - Sondra Mayer
Assistant Stage Manager / "Karlette" - Julie Mullen
Dance Choreography - Jessie Marion
Fight Choreography - Charles Currier
Set Designer - Carlos Fedos
Master Carpenter - Aaron Francis
Scenic Painter - Sheryl Lynn Davey
Costume Design - Denice Roe
Lighting Design - Michael Smith
Sound Design - Jason Tuttle
Sound Operator - Ruth Silveira




Forget your Bible. In George F. Walker's play, Heaven is a place anyone can get into, regardless of race or religion. All you have to do is believe. This can be good or bad news, considering that some of the characters in Walker's Heaven aren't exactly the types you'd want to spend five minutes with, much less an eternity. But the most despicable people are also the most fun to watch.

Take, for example, Karl. Played by Adam Bitterman, Karl is an angry cop on the edge who enjoys spending his time intimidating and beating drug addict Derek (Victor Isaac). In his free time, he likes to threaten his former friend Jimmy (Sam R. Ross), a lawyer he blames for his partner's suicide. Bitterman is a revelation, bubbling over with anger and prowling the stage with feral grace. We've seen the angry bad cop cliche before, and with his bald head and intense stare, Bitterman bears a passing resemblance to TV's excellent rogue cop, played by Michael Chiklis. But Bitterman isn't just some knockoff; he's pure rage packed into a compact frame. In the rare moments of tenderness that pass over him like fleeting thoughts, he even makes you feel for him. "I wasn't always a monster," he murmurs to himself at one point, and you want to believe him.

Bitterman heads an eclectic cast confidently directed by Maurice Lord. The characters meet, philosophize, and argue about all of life's great mysteries in a local park. Ross' lawyer Jimmy is a lapsed Catholic who married a Jewish woman, and he believes years of cultural differences have started to strain their marriage. But that strain seems to be that Jimmy is a complete and utter jerk. At first Ross seems to be channeling Jim Carrey, delivering everything like a punch line. But when it counts, Ross rises to the occasion, squaring off against Bitterman in some quietly intense moments. He fares better than Isaac's Derek, who tends toward the one-note. The remaining cast does uniformly solid work. Johanna McKay is perfection as the long-suffering wife, and Paul Byrne is a quiet standout as the rabbi who loves her. As a homeless teen, Crystal Keith is wonderfully endearing. Kudos is also due Carlos Fedos for designing a set that looks and feels like an L.A. park--albeit an awfully clean one.

The story is fairly straightforward until the midway point, when the reappearance of a dead character takes the action in a slightly more surreal direction. Be prepared for some moments of violence and frequent skirmishes, courtesy of Charles Currier's excellent fight choreography. But it's the moments when the characters stop grappling physically that the intensity in Heaven is palpable.

-- Jenelle Riley
Backstage West


'Heaven' mixes thriller, allegory
An ominous undercover policeman. An obsessive human rights lawyer. A juggling junkie. An irreconcilably estranged wife. A rabbi of conflicted interests. A reluctant police informant. A prototypical urban park where their seemingly coincidental destinies collide, leading to an overpopulated afterlife.

These archetypal elements form the foundation of George F. Walker's 2000 "Heaven," receiving its local premiere at Sacred Fools. The celebrated Canadian playwright's "millennium play" is a hybrid of gritty thriller and existential allegory, with results both unkempt and intriguing.

Walker's idiosyncratic style is an acquired taste. From the B-movie absurdism of 1974's "Mozambique" and Jacobean pastiche of 1977's "Zastrozzi" to the nihilistic Turgenev reconstruction of 1988's "Fathers and Sons," Walker's iconoclasm sees philosophy and dramaturgy as inextricable. This dichotomy is central to "Heaven."

The production counts obvious assets in director Maurice Lord's smooth staging and the adept designs, particularly Carlos Fedos' skewed setting.

The proficient cast is another plus. Adam Bitterman's riveting cop shifts from jocular to psychotic on a hairpin trigger, and Sam R. Ross' defender devolves from manic to moribund with finesse.

Victor Isaac's unwilling patsy has limited range but infinite commitment, and Johanna McKay's wife is excellent. As the poles of reason and metaphor, Paul Byrne's rabbi and Crystal Keith's addict are understated and effective.

What is less so is Walker's ambitious, typically overstuffed script, which conjoins elements of David Mamet and Dennis Potter without attaining full cohesion between them. Perhaps this is also intentional, but less adventurous playgoers should nonetheless exercise caution.

-- David C. Nichols
2002 LA Times