gritty thriller...unkempt and intriguing!"
of two 2002 Garland Award Honorable Mentions!
- Adam Bitterman
SCENIC DESIGN - Carlos Fedos
BLACK COMEDY ABOUT HEAVEN...
THAT HURTS LIKE HELL.
GEORGE F. WALKER
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
pointed and sharp that you'll laugh until it hurts.
On the Sacred Fools Mainstage...
14 - December 21, 2002
Thursday - Saturday @ 8pm
Reservations: (310) 281-8337
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
- *CRITICS PICK!!!*
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
mixes thriller, allegory
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
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
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
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
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