"We're on our way to see a romantic comedy," I said into my hopelessly static filled cellular phone wondering if my dad could even hear me. "A romantic comedy," he quickly replied without even thinking. "That's just what the world needs more of. There's already more than enough sad events in life. It's time for more hopeful, positive and uplifting things to raise the human spirit." Wow! I thought, after absorbing my dad's pearls of wisdom. Maybe he's on to something here.

As I said goodbye, Kim and I continued cruising down Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles, past the neon clutter and advertising for everything from traditional Russian to authentic Mexican food. At Hollywood Boulevard we hung a quick left and were practically at the Barnsdall Art Park where this classic Marivaux play, written 271 years ago, in 1732, was being presented by A Small Company, in association with the Chautauqua Theatre Alliance. (As a side note and further verification of the great historical context, the Chautauqua Theater Alliance began in 1874 on the shores of New York's Lake Chautauqua as a response to a "hunger of mind abroad in the land." Their mission statement, clearly says it all: (to "entertain, enlighten and challenge audiences"). The setting for this Marivaux play was the 40+ seat theater overlooking one of the outdoor courtyards at the Hollyhock House, the first Los Angeles home designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright between 1919 and 1921. The original intent, finally coming to fruition after 82 years, was for this house to be part of an innovative theatrical community blending cultural and architectural history for all residents of Los Angeles to enjoy.

Ameenah Kapland and Jacy Gross.

Since the Hollyhock House suffered extensive earthquake damage during the January 1994 Northridge Earthquake, only the exterior restoration of this massive building was near completion. Sadly, the public has been deprived of being allowed to go on interior tours of this masterpiece since it was nearly condemned. Luckily, Kim and I had toured the house on two separate occasions prior to it's earthquake damage, and had marveled in the blending of differing architectural influences ranging from Mayan, Japanese, Egyptian and Spanish Colonial. After nine years of LA bureaurocratic red tape and squabbling, only a few of many needed millions of dollars have trickled into restoring this first example of F.L.W.'s "California Romanza" style of architecture.

California Romanza, which is a term Frank Lloyd Wright coined, meaning, "To make ones own form," although intended to apply as an architectural term to explain his many influences, can be applied in a philosophical manner to the theme of this play: the struggle of the mind over the heart. In the eternal battle of logic versus love, there are no hard and fast rules. Each heartfelt pang of emotion has to be dealt with for all its love, jealousy, and fear of rejection certainly requires one "to make one's own form." No simple formulas or answers exist. It's a long, dragged out war, whether on a quest to restore the Hollyhock House, or to logically comprehend the many intricacies of love.

Jacy Gross as Leonidis,
Phocian & Aspasia!

Architectural discussion aside, on this chilly, November post-monsoon Saturday afternoon, at 3:00 p.m., we were here to enjoy how this impressive architecture complemented the theatrical workings of Director Scott Rabinowitz. The byline on the free theater program cleverly summed up the theme of the play while tipping a respectful hat towards its architectural setting by calling it, "a classic farce in a classic space."

With a cast of only seven talented actors and actresses, most of which were playing numerous roles set back in the 1920s, the witty banter and slapstick comedy gave a fun, lighthearted side to the age old painstaking battle of the mind to rule over the heart. Working with few props and in an outdoor setting complete with the exquisite natural lighting of the Hollyhock House, the cast did an outstanding job! Sure, modern inconveniences like helicopters buzzing overhead were unplanned for in the original Marivaux play, but this theater company rolled with the punches and kept the show lively. Being a chilly outdoor setting, seat cushions and blankets were a nice touch to allow the audience to stay nice and cozy and enjoy the entire two act play high atop a Hollywood Hill with marvelous views of the Griffith Observatory and legendary Hollywood sign.

Jacy Gross and Ryan Janis - Agis
(son of Cleomenes).

Among the cast, our favorites were: Jacy Gross, Casey Smith and Troy Blendell. The strong passion that the lead actress, Jacy Gross, exhibited in each of her three characters—Leonidis, Phocian, and Aspasia—in her zoot-suited pursuit of her "learned" man clearly made her stand out as the most talented and promising actress in this production. Kudos also goes to the two strongest and most treacherous "characters" who filled out the core of this power-trio cast and certainly helped to carry this play: Casey Smith, as the hysterical slapstick, vaudevillian butler; and Troy Blendell, for his energetic portrayal of the two-timing gardener. These three easily outshined the rest of the cast and made them appear dull, and wooden.

Visit Webbandstand.comThe Triumph of Love is a timeless romantic comedy with true meaning that shows no age. This theme of the heart winning over the logical mind is still refreshing, no matter how many times we see this play. For all the power that knowledge brings, it is quickly dashed against the rocks by the fury that the virtue of love brings about in this classic line, "For all our philosophy, how weak we are."

Feature by Donald and Kimberly Tatera, Southern California Jetsetters Magazine Correspondents. Read the feature on Frank Lloyd Wright's las dream hotel, The Arizona Biltmore.

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