Please Don't Ask About Becket

<i>Please Don't Ask About Becket</i>

Ed Krieger


Wed., Aug. 24 and Sun., Sept. 18 2016

Location Info:

Sacred Fools Theater — Black Box
6322 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA  90038
The prodigal child is a staple of family drama, in theater as in life. It’s a conflict that affects families at all income levels, although we probably hear more stories from the middle and upper classes (perhaps because they’re more ready or able to articulate their pain). Anyone who’s worked in the movie or TV business can tell you of a producer or artist they know who is agonizing over some wayward progeny, and we’re all cognizant of troubled celebrities who were themselves once troubled youths.

In Wendy Graf’s Please Don't Ask About Becket, the title character  (Hunter Garner) is the son of a big mucky-muck in the studio world. He’s also a twin, and while the plot revolves around his errant behavior, it’s the narrator, his sister Emily (Rachel Seiferth), whose path to womanhood is the ascendant focus of the drama.

Playmates in childhood, Emily and Becket grow up to be very different. He is handsome and charismatic, while she is shy and awkward. While they’re loved more or less even-handedly by their father, Rob (Rob Nagle), it’s evident from the beginning that Becket is abundantly favored by their mother, Grace (Deborah Puette). Emily adores her brother too, which is why she tolerates growing up in his shadow.

Becket begins to go astray when the twins are in their teens, testing the ability of everyone in the family to forgive. He’s not evil — just weak and irresponsible and addicted to his own pleasures, which take precedence over all else.

Directed by Kiff Scholl, Please Don't Ask About Becket doesn't break any ground, but its familiarity makes it easy to connect with, and it has touching moments. Many of these, however, are dissipated by the production’s staging in the round. For example, Emily may be pouring her heart out, but you see only her back when she’s doing so. Also, because the characters keep moving about the space (turning this way and that so that everyone in the audience gets a look), there’s never a chance of a group portrait, a visual sense of what the family was like when it cohered, and correspondingly of what is being taken away. And, very simply, a lot of the performers’ energy is taken up with moving across the stage, distracting us from what they’re expressing and their impact on the characters they’re talking to.

On the plus side are elements of Evan Bartoletti’s set and Kelley Finn's lighting design, which, in tandem with Cricket Myers' sound design, evoke both the wistfulness of youth and the inevitable sadness that accompanies loss and regret.
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