Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

The PrideWallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Review by Terry Morgan


Augustus Prew and Jessica Collins
Photo by Kevin Parry
News of the Los Angeles premiere of Alexi Kaye Campbell's The Pride generated hopeful expectations of high quality, since the play won an Olivier Award and critical acclaim for its 2008 London premiere. The drama is being produced by the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts during LGBT Pride Month, so the timing is appropriate. And the production features a quartet of talented actors who deliver strong performances. Unfortunately, it turns out that the play itself is uninspired and somewhat tedious.

In 1958 London, illustrator Sylvia (Jessica Collins) and her husband Philip (Neil Bledsoe) have invited children's book author Oliver (Augustus Prew) to dinner. Sylvia wants her employer and husband to meet, not realizing that the two men will become attracted to each other and begin an affair. In 2008 London, different people named Philip and Oliver have broken up with each other, due to Oliver's inability to stop having sex with other men. Sylvia, again on the sidelines, tries to help them get back together.

Prew revels in his character as the modern Oliver, all sarcasm and self-pity, and does what he can with the more ephemeral 1958 version of the role. Bledsoe is almost exactly the opposite, bringing a subtlety and depth of feeling to the repressed Philip but less to the under-written modern version. Collins is good as both versions of Sylvia, particularly fine in a scene in which she confronts the home-wrecking Oliver, but Campbell in general does her character no favors, making her an adjunct to the men. Matthew Wilkas is terrific in multiple roles, especially as an aggrieved sex worker.

Director Michael Arden gets fine work from his ensemble, but his decision to have the characters from separate time periods meaningfully stare at each other during the scene changes comes off as pretentious. Also, it may be because this particular stage configuration eliminates most of the backstage space, but having the actors change costumes in front of the audience adds little to the proceedings.

The main problems with Campbell's play are that the 1958 version feels stuffy and familiar, with Noël Coward-lite dialogue, and also that the two versions don't really add up to anything meaningful. The 2008 version is more successful, but trying to shoehorn the two stories together under the theme of gay pride just doesn't work.

The Pride plays at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, through July 9, 2017. Tickets and info are available at www.TheWallis.org.

Written by Alexi Kaye Campbell. Directed by Michael Arden. Lighting Designer: Travis Hagenbuch. Scenic Designer: Michael Arden. Costume Designer: Danae Iris McQueen. Sound Designer: Joshua D. Reid. Production Stage Manager: Nikki Hyde.

Cast:
Philip: Neil Bledsoe
Oliver : Augustus Prew
Sylvia: Jessica Collins
The Man/Peter/The Doctor: Matthew Wilkas




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