Rebecca Gilman’s 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Glory of Living” audaciously takes its audience to a very dark place. Though not comfortable to watch, the play provides a dazzlingly in-depth look at abuse, rape and murder. In its L.A. premiere at the Victory Theater Center, director Carri Sullens gets indelible perfs from a superb cast.
Lisa (Rachel Style), a quiet teenager living with her prostitute mother, runs off with Clint (Martin Papazian), thinking she’ll find love and excitement. Instead, Clint forces Lisa to kill and discard the female hitchhikers he has raped. Ultimately, Lisa calls the police to stop the horror; no longer under threat from Clint, Lisa finally has to explain why she did what she did.
Style delivers a multifaceted and memorable perf as Lisa, displaying the character’s naivete and sweetness right alongside her anxiety: Lisa loves Clint even as she lives in fear of him. Below that are flashes of her own sadism, a colder side of Lisa that Style exposes in sudden, unexpectedly scary glares. Lisa is, ultimately, not easily reduced to just victim or victimizer — she’s both — and Style plays all the character’s complexities with skill.
Papazian gives a galvanizing perf as the horrifying Clint, seductively compassionate and then explosively violent, dominating the stage with power. Iris Gilad, Melanie Wilson and D. Taylor Loeb are all very good as Clint and Lisa’s various victims, but Gilad is particularly haunting as the mentally challenged girl oblivious to the danger she’s in. Kelly Van Kirk effectively portrays moral outrage as a police detective interrogating Lisa, and Evan Silverman is convincing and tragic as a boyfriend of one of the murdered girls.
Sullens’ direction effectively conveys the play’s visceral power, and her surprising reveals of myriad bruises on Lisa’s back and the presence of the first victim are shocking. If act two offers a slightly unsatisfying resolution, it’s a small imperfection. Scott “Rex” Hobart’s original music is appropriately twangy and ominous.