Finding the Burnett Heart
Although coming out is integral to the story, that's not what makes Paul Elliott's drama so involving. It takes place in a small bedroom shared by an intelligent, upbeat teenager named Tyler (Joel Johnstone) and his mean-spirited, homophobic granddad, James (James Handy), temporarily boarding with his son's family. Tyler's a kid any mom would be proud of, and Grace (Colleen McGrann), the exacting family matriarch, is proud, until she learns he's gay. His father, Robert (Jeff L. Williams), determined to spare his child the cruel disdain he suffered in his own youth from James, lends him solace and support. Powered by smart, keen dialogue, the play delivers an incisive exploration of father-son relationships and a damning portrait of bigotry and Christian fundamentalist dogma. As written, the roles of Tyler and James are expertly crafted; Handy's work is solid, while Johnstone gives a dynamic and endearing performance that powers this production. But McGrann's hand-wringing fanatic tilts toward excess melodrama, while Williams' Robert is somewhat wooden. Directed by Jeremy Aldridge, the staging at this venue is problematic, with actors positioned with their backs to part of the audience in key scenes and a lengthy crucial dialogue between Tyler and James in act two inadequately lit. Lillian Theatre, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through May 27. (323) 960-7792 , plays411.com.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 20. Continues through May 27, 2012
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