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John Mese as Christian Brando
John Mese as Christian Brando
Courtesy Wild Son

Theater Pick: Wild Son Gets Inside Christian Brando's Head

When Christian Brando died of pneumonia in 2008 at the age of 49, he had led what might be called a tragic Hollywood life. The son of Marlon Brando (one of the 11 children the icon fathered) made headlines like his dad, but not for acting. He was part of a highly-publicized shooting, having killed Dag Drollet, the boyfriend of his half-sister Cheyenne at Marlon's Mulholland Drive mansion. He went to prison for the crime in 1991 and was released five years later. He also had involvement with the 2005 trial of Baretta star Robert Blake, who was charged with the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley. Though Blake was acquitted, the televised trail revealed that Brando and Bakley had a relationship at the same time that she started seeing Blake. She bore a daughter named after Brando, but paternity tests proved the child was actually Blake's. Brando's next relationship was no less volatile — he was charged with spousal abuse of his wife, but escaped prison and did probation.

In the new play Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando, writer Champ Clark shares his intimate perspective and a first-hand portrait, based on interviews he conducted with Brando, who was his friend. Actor John Mese has been performing the play around town, according to Clark, "pop-up style," but this Sunday, it starts a proper run at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Told in Brando's own words and drawn straight from recorded conversations, the story covers Drollet's murder and more, providing an unflinching yet dimensional  look at a deeply troubled man and his complex relationship with his famous father.

Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sundays, 5:30 p.m., debuting April 28 and continuing through May 5, 12, 19 and 26. $20 tickets and more info here.

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