By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Gregory Itzin in the title role is among the show's three performers, and if he’s anything like he was in the earlier reading, you’ll be treated to the way he licks his teeth in childlike glee at the whimsy of Rougemont’s story, not to mention a spectacularly droll rendering of Margulies’ more sardonic lines. The other treat, which comes later in the play, is seeing the flickers of panic in his eyes when the Royal Geographical Society questions the veracity of Rougemont's now-published saga. Flying wombats? Honestly!
The storyteller is on trial, and this play is his appeal to be believed, and to be loved. He is an advocate for the power of imagination over the facts. This sounds delightful on the face of it, but we’ve learned the kinds of trouble that ignoring the facts can get us into. In the play, the empiricists from the Royal Geographical Society are short-tempered brutes on the attack, which goads us emotionally to stand behind the embattled dreamer.
Margulies was in town briefly last week to oversee final technical issues before rushing back to New Haven to teach a playwriting class at Yale. I asked him if his charmless treatment of the Royal Geographical Society undermines their legitimate concerns that making stuff up is not always the road to larger truths. After all, “imagination” is the first cousin of a lie, which gets us no closer to truth than fixed intel. Not a problem, he replied as we sat at a table in the rehearsal hall, surrounded by a mountain of props.
“During the reading, I saw the audience completely seduced — there were grown men wiping away tears at a reference to the death of Rougemont’s pet dog — and the dog doesn’t even appear on the stage. If they’re experiencing a fiction that deeply .?.?. that doesn’t mean they’re not understanding the arguments of his opponents.”
And, of course, it is Rougemont’s story, “as told by himself.” Why would he give credit to his detractors? Nobody else does.
Black Watch is being performed at UCLA, Freud Playhouse, through October 14. (310) 825-2101 or www.uclalive.org. For a review, see New Theater Reviews.
Shipwrecked! The Adventures of Louis Rougemont (As Told By Himself) — An Entertainment is being performed at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, through October 14. (714) 708-5555 or www.scr.org.