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
Rochelle, an only daughter, is facing down the one-year anniversary of her mother's death, for which she's supposed to enshrine her memory with a gravestone. Another dancer, Daloris (the always fine Juanita Jennings) is a cancer survivor, attributing her life to flamenco. And so, as in A Fried Octopus, Heart Song urges art to embrace and live with death, in order to celebrate light and life.
Dunlap, a consummate clown, turns in a magnificent, heroic performance, but even she can't defy Act One's sitcom quips:
"Jews love global warming. It means we don't have to go to Florida."
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"You should listen to your body." "We're not speaking."
"I accept others. I accept they're all assholes."
In Act Two, however, the dance lessons and dubious jokes all but disappear, and the play turns both more domestic and more far-reaching as it reveals the legacies of persecution against the ancestors of the four principal characters, one Jewish, one Gypsy, one Japanese and one African-American. It becomes a drama about coping with loss, in which Rochelle enacts the Yahrzeit ceremony, marking the anniversary of the death of a loved one, with her flamenco circle in a tender and beautiful ritual. The Holocaust, Japanese internment and American slavery take center stage, along with how art and friendship emerge as balm for these deepest of wounds.
Rochelle, who was told nothing of her ancestry by her father, reveals a garment that she has just learned belonged to her mother — the striped prison garb her mother, who survived the Nazis, wore at Birkenau.
After the play, one audience member sat shell-shocked, and told her seatmate, "I asked my father to tell me something about my mother. He sent me a photo of her in a death-camp uniform. Said he wouldn't talk about it. He lost everybody. It was just like in the play."
There's no arguing with that.
A FRIED OCTOPUS | By Alicia Adams and Justin Zsebe | Bootleg Theater, 2200 Beverly Blvd., Westlake | Thurs.-Sat., 7:30 p.m.; through June 8 | (213) 389-3856 | bootlegtheater.org
HEART SONG | By Stephen Sachs | Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Hlywd. | Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; through July 14 | (323) 663-1525 | fountaintheatre.com