Seven Sundays

Moving into an extended run at the Odyssey, Theatre 40's production of "Seven Sundays" by Michael Scott Reed offers a simple, poignant study of two men who get to know each other while one is dying. Although the storyline does not go far and offers no surprises, the cast delivers many telling, tender moments.

With:
Andrew ... Andre Barron Francis ... Joe Dahman Nurse ... Michelle Manning

Moving into an extended run at the Odyssey, Theatre 40’s production of “Seven Sundays” by Michael Scott Reed offers a simple, poignant study of two men who get to know each other while one is dying. Although the storyline does not go far and offers no surprises, the cast delivers many telling, tender moments.

Bank teller Francis (Joe Dahman), who has volunteered his Sundays to sit and chat with AIDS patients who are dying alone, gets comatose Andrew (Andre Barron) as his first case. The story is told in seven scenes over a year.

Awakening from his coma to discover he’s in the last stages of AIDS, Andrew doesn’t want Francis’ help. But Francis persists.

The two men, both gay, find they are quite different people. Since Andrew left his Midwestern home, he has bounced from job to job and focused mainly on dancing, partying and having sex with strangers, never developing a relationship.

Francis — who has worked in his bank job since college graduation and plans to stay there until he retires — loves to garden, cook and crochet; he lives alone and has had a few, important relationships.

The nurse (Michelle Manning), who appears between scenes, brings a glimpse of the constant medical care Andrew requires.

While she lends little narrative action and only a few mumblings, Manning does have a strong, revealing moment when she cries without explanation. The emotional forces at work on such a ward take its toll. Many telling moments give the situation the ring of authenticity.

The play’s weakness is its predictability. A few minutes after Andrew wakes, one can guess that his irascible personality will soften under Francis’ intercession.

A common danger with two-man plays is that without additional characters to act as sparks/catalysts, the action often stays in one direction. One could argue the Grim Reaper is this third personality, but death is a given from the beginning of this piece, and its “sudden” appearance does not catch one off-guard.

Even so, the play provides a stirring showcase for the actors and, under Bruce Gray’s effective direction, Barron and Dahman provide evocative performances. Of the two, Dahman has the more dimensional part. The details of his staid life blossom into color.

Andrew’s past, however, barely creeps past a hedonistic focus with tales of sexual conquest. What made Andrew bounce around so much and eschew his family never becomes clear.

In contrast, Michael Kearns’ one-man show “Intimacies” a few years ago cut beneath stereotype and offered seethingly clear portraits of six people with AIDS.

“Seven Sundays” has to use part of “The Map of the World’s” set and light design and surmounts such restrictions, succeeding technically.

Seven Sundays

(Odyssey Theatre, West L.A.; 99 seats; $ 15 top)

Production: The Odyssey Theatre presents a Theatre 40 production of a drama in one act by Michael Scott Reed. Produced by Andre Barron. Directed by Bruce Gray.

Creative: Set design , Nancy Dunn Eisenman; lighting design, Debra Garcia Lockwood; sound, Andrew Yeater; costumes, Julie Miller. Reviewed July 14, 1992; runs through Aug. 5.

Cast: Andrew ... Andre Barron Francis ... Joe Dahman Nurse ... Michelle Manning

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