Recently we went to see the Los Angeles premiere of this very dramatic play written in 1984 by Maria Irene Fornes. It was premiered by The Open Fist Theater Company at a funky little theater on La Brea, a mere stone's throw from Hollywood Boulevard, in the heart of the always happening Hollywood, California.

The audience, primarily dressed in their best black, filled the 99 seat theater to capacity, and from overhearing a few random conversations, was filled with screenwriters, playwrights and students studying theater in college.

I wondered why there was such a large collective of students of theater here to view this production? Little did I know that this playwright, Maria Irene Fornes, is one of the most distinguished female playwrights in America and has written over three dozen works for the stage in the last forty years. Not only is she a talented playwright, director, teacher, translator, and lyricist, but also she has received eight Obie Awards, with one in recognition of her Sustained Achievement in Theater. In addition, Maria received a Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1990 for one of her plays, "And What of the Night?". Since her immigration from Havana, Cuba to New York in 1945, at the age of 15, she has been primarily writing, and debuting her plays on the East Coast. They are known and respected for being intelligent, thoughtful, often funny, delicate and quite profound experiences. With "Abingdon Square" having earned an Obie Award in 1988 for Best American Play, Kim and I were in for quite a theatrical treat.

What impressed me the most about the presentation of this dramatic period piece was the excellent lighting and music. Both of which easily, and often, eerily led the viewer from one emotional scene to the next. Having thirty-one linear scenes, this meant a great deal of swift scene changes in the roughly 90 minutes of theater production time. The back of the stage was uplit from behind a row of shrubs that were often hidden from view behind a curtain and hence, created ominous shadows.

The stage lighting design of Dan Reed created a sense of revolving or continuing motion as the row of uplights began on one side of the stage and crossed to the other side one by one. Like a domino effect, lights went on and dimmed. For those who have seen the amazing computer choreographed music, water and light show at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, you will understand the slick motion and emotion created when one views such majesty. In this case, there was no water, but the lighting, and resulting shadows, combined with the sound design of Tim Labor and the ethereal and often nutty period music of Janet Cline Slaughtery drew the audience in closer to the drama that was unraveling before our eyes.

Maria Irene Fornes

Abingdon Square is an emotional two act play set in a house on 10th Street, New York City, between 1908 — 1917. With all the social, political and wartime change taking place, this play is brimming with sexual tension, repression and guilt. With the numerous set changes, the viewer had better pay attention, since nine years goes by rather quickly. Although not a very wordy play, the emotion was often felt via the moody and brooding silence and the actions that emerge from the stillness. Every word and gesture has meaning, and each moment contains countless possibilities, especially with the sparsely decorated stage. No fluff exists here among the turmoil, passion, and loss that the outstanding cast of seven actors and actresses brings to life in every gripping action of every tense and brewing scene. Towards the final scene, like an Alfred Hitchcock movie, an increasingly louder clock is ticking and represents the irrational, insane human rage exploding on stage in front of the audience.

Visit Webbandstand.comThe plot of Abingdon Square revolves around a grief stricken, and often paranoid and delusional, 15-year-old girl named Marion whose parents were killed. She finds comfort in the arms of Juster, a 50-year-old widowed businessman who marries her and allows her to be the head of his house. Often overwhelmed by her responsibilities and generational differences between husband and wife, the very naïve Marion imagines or dreams of a secret lover much closer to her age. What we are led to believe is just a childhood fantasy entered into a secret diary, is indeed real. Marion, seeking sexual fulfillment, starts to have secret rendezvous with her new lover and ends up pregnant. Juster, in a tirade, throws his wife out of the house and forbids her to see her baby. She ends up with her lover, who is now tired of her, and wants to move on. Each spouse, burned by love seeks revenge on the other. The seething hatred in each of them boils over into an emotional climax in the final scene.

No, I'm not going to give away the final scene. Go see this amazing roller coaster ride of a play to experience the gripping emotional drama for yourself. Or, look up any play by Maria Irene Fornes at your local theater or bookstore, and enjoy.

By Donald & Kimberly Tatera, Southern California Jetsetters Magazine Correspondents,

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Abingdon Square

Abingdon Square

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Greater Los Angeles Arts Resource Directory: And Arts & Educaton Guide

Greater Los Angeles Arts Resource Directory: And Arts & Educaton Guide

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