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
1 p.m. — Barely made it to Theatre Asylum for Australian actor Leof Kingsford-Smith solo performance of Gerry Greenland's biographical Mission of Flowers, based on the life and diary of English-Australian aviator Bill Lancaster. Alan Walpole's set creates a kind of cart carved from the imagined wreckage of Lancaster's plane, which has crashed in the Sahara in 1933. And there's that image of water once more as the essence of what we are.
Lancaster sits preserving energy, and crossing off chalk lines on a water canteen as day after day tick by, with flickering fading hope that his flares will be noticed by nearby pilots. The play is a fever dream, as Lancaster awaits rescue. For a fever, however, it sure is a straightforward and rational account of the guy's memories, including his affair with a flame — female aviator Chubby Miller — for whom Lancaster divorced his wife. A mutual American friend then struck up a romance with Chubby and issues of betrayal, murder and/or suicide percolate.
Kingsford-Smith gives a tenderly rendered portrayal of haughty adventurer who runs out of adventures, under Damien Lay's direction. When he smacks his lips, you can feel that blistering Sahara heat.
2:30 p.m. — If you think the Sahara is barren, you should try find a decent lunch near Santa Monica and Vine, especially when you have 30 minutes between shows. That's an aspect of the festival worth working on. Where's a good illegal street vendor when you need one?
Returned to Theatre Asylum for a Chicago import, Sideway Theater and Taco Dog Productions production of Sue Cargill's Feeling Sorry for Roman Polanski, an amusing comedy about victims and the people who love them. Amid kitchen banter between a gossipy wife, Myrna (Danielle Fink) and her forlorn husband, Bink (Michael Whitney), Bink reveals how his energetic performance of singing a telegram in a gorilla suit induced a fatal seizure in the almost 90-year-old recipient of his entertainment.
As Bink faces the loss of his job and some guilt, even his wife starts to subtly blame him. She can't do anything but side with victims; this includes an impassioned and slightly goofy defense of her favorite director, Roman Polanski, attributing his alleged molestation of a 13-year-old girl to his harrowing upbringing during the Holocaust, and the trauma of the Sharon Tate murders.
"I've decided not to sue you or your company," is supposed to be good news from the nephew, leading instead to Bink's questioning the nephew as to why, exactly, he chose to hire a guy in a gorilla suit to deliver a greeting to a woman so obviously frail — a reasonable question that shifts responsibility back to where it would belong in a rational world. But Cargill's world, in her intriguing play with competent performances, is far from rational.
5 p.m. — The British Invasion features a series of stand-up comedians from Britain at IDA on Hollywood Boulevard. I caught the duo of Simon Feilder and Sy Thomas in their act, Life of Si, like a British reincarnation of the Smothers Brothers — amiable, eccentric, self-deprecating and squabbling like children over issues of profound import, such as which lines were actually said in James Bond flicks, and whether there's time to get the entire audience a cup of tea.
It's an act of delightfully nutty repartee, and is gently mocking of stand-up comedy conventions. One plays a heckler with strategically witless insults. I particularly liked an opening video sequence in which the duo tried to pass off what was obviously London for L.A. — "city of angles." Standing in front of the Houses of Parliament, they were thrilled at finally being at L.A.'s "city hall," and showing a McDonald's logo upside down; they veritably gloated at relaxing at the "W" hotel, "here on Hollywood Boulevard!"
7 p.m. — Back at Theatre Asylum, more water: The allegory of a raindrop seeking a puddle to land in anchors what starts as a marionette show in Bye-Bye, Bombay, Cara Yeates performs her solo show about defying her Indo-Canadian mother by visiting, and reliving, her mom's Bollywood experiences in Bombay.
Ably supported by Cameron Avery's video design and Sylvan Sailly's animation, the saga tells of a surreal descent into a world of incomprehensible poverty, cruelty and transcendent mysticism. A capable performance about forging an identity, it echoes the shape of del Valle's journey in Brownsville Bred.
9 p.m. — In Hollywood's Deep South (L.A. ComedySportz Theater on Seward near Melrose), Les Kurkendaal's solo performance in Christmas in Bakersfield recounts his visit to his boyfriend's family in "California's armpit," at their Bakersfield manse. They knew their son was gay, but he'd neglected to tell them that his lover was black. And in a slightly mannered style that stresses clarity over mystery, Kurkendaal proffers a compendium of bigotry and homophobia, through which Kurkendaal is still able to win them over — even terrifying "Grandma," whose very name sparks alarming noises over the sound system.