Tale From Hollywood: A Theatrical Review
From the Director’s note: Thirty years ago, Gordon Davidson was intrigued by an idea for a play based on the German exiles that frequented the very house Gordon lived in.
Once owned by the Polish actress/script writer for Greta Garbo, Salka Viertel, Her home was the last true salon included other émigrés – Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, Marlene Dietrich and also Garbo – as well as Hollywood celebrities – Charlie Chaplin, Johnny Weissmuller, Christopher Isherwood, George Cukor, Harold Clurman, Oscar Levant and Fred Zinnemann, among so many others. Christopher Hampton was commissioned to write the play, which Gordon directed and opened at the Mark Taper Forum on March 26, 1982. Tales From Hollywood pays homage to these artists who so greatly left their mark on American culture in their films and plays.
This production focuses on one key writer, Odon von Horvath, from Croatia who was educated in Vienna. He emigrated many times in his life in and out of Germany, and as the Nazis overran Austria in March of 1938, he fled Czechoslovakia, then eventually to the Netherlands. In truth Odon von Horvath was killed in a freak accident during a thunderstorm on the Champs-Elysee. In Tales From Hollywood, writer Christopher Hampton has given him a life with a much more interesting ending. In this production, Hampton brings von Horvath to Hollywood to be one of the small time writers who are eaten up by the major motion picture studios of the day. He, along with many other writers were hired at low paying wages to write out ideas for motion pictures and television. Though very little if anything that these writers ever wrote was ever seen or heard of from the general public, the studios that employed them still hold all rights to every word ever written.
Basically a one-man show concept, though there is actually a fairly large cast of players, Tales From Hollywood employs all the vulgar stereotypes, language, and spectacle that Old Hollywood is notoriously known for. Spilling over with unneeded vulgar language that would cause individuals with any sense of moral ethics to cringe (as this did me), this production is actually fairly true to life, at least as far as Old Hollywood gossip artists would have us believe. Also employing the completely unnecessary presence of full nudity (apparently as nothing more than shock value), this production goes further than it needs to in order to make its point. That of which is that many of the emigrants of that day (circa 1940) were not only highly influential in the making of what we now know as Hollywood and its artistry, but more often than not caused to live almost servitude-like lifestyles. This is not a production for the lighthearted. There are many attempts at humor, some of which are funny, but most of which would require inebriation to enjoy.
As most of my readers have come to expect from me, I will always attempt to find the good in the work of fellow dramatic artists. First the direction by Michael Peretzian is truly top notch. Peretzian has found a way of helping this difficult script come to life with the help of a constantly moving and ingenious set, designed by Tom Buderwitz, but also as the key marks of ownership in the work of the lead actor, Gregory Gifford Giles. As the show is narrated, performed by, as well as led by Giles, his ability to move from dialect to dialect, persona to persona, idea to action throughout the production is truly the very best thing about it.
I cannot say that this production is for everyone, nor would I in any way suggest that any minor be permitted to view it, however, if an understanding of the emigrants who helped to form the Hollywood of today is of interest to you, Tales From Hollywood does have its merits. Tales From Hollywood runs Thursday through Saturday at 8PM and Sundays at 2PM through December 19, 2010. There are also special dates of Wednesday at 8PM on November 10th, Sunday at 7PM on November 14th & December 19th. As well as the ever so famous ‘Pay What You Can’ performances on November 26th and December 17, 2010. Should you desire to see this production, tickets can be purchased by calling 310-477-2055 x2 or by logging onto the web at www.odysseytheatre.com. This project is supported in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, and Los Angeles County Arts Commission. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
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