Billed as two third’s of scripter Murray Mednick’s “The Gary Plays” trilogy, the 26-minute “Tirade for Three” and 75-minute “Gary’s Walk” delve into the psychic terrors that drive a raging narcissistic failed actor along his delusional path of self-destruction. This intriguing premise is over-burdened with Mednick’s myriad thematic recapitulations, as if he is concerned the audience isn’t going to get it. The work does exude a pulsating vitality and veracity thanks to the synergistic rapport of an outstanding ensemble under the guidance of Mednick and co-helmer Guy Zimmerman.
“Tirade for Three” lives up to its title as emotionally flailing middle-aged Gary (Christopher Allport) is ushered onto the scene by two unsympathetic specters from his id (Shawna Casey, Jack Kehler), who mockingly hail him as the “king.” Gary is indeed the ruler of a self-designed empire of failure that is constructed out of the waste products of a destroyed acting and teaching career, two obliterated marriages and his complete uselessness as a father. The crowning event occurs when he learns that his son Danny has been killed in a senseless random shooting in a park and he can do nothing but wail in ineffectual rage.
Helmed with a finely tuned understanding of Mednick-speak by longtime collaborator Zimmerman, the action flows effortlessly amidst the debris of Gary’s thoughts as he struggles to find some footing within the chaos. The trio of Allport, Casey and Kehler inhabit Mednick’s dialogue with sparse overlay of characterization, physicality or commentary. A welcome respite from the Gary bashing is Casey’s delicate portrayal of second wife Marsha, who exudes the weary reserve of a formerly devoted spouse who no longer has the strength to cope.
“Gary’s Walk” is invested with an engaging activity. Having retrieved his son’s cremated ashes from his first wife Gloria (Dana Wieluns), a now homeless and physically deteriorating Gary (now played by John Diehl) embarks on an odyssey of self-flagellation, pushing a shopping cart from L.A.’s Silverlake district to Santa Monica beach, ostensibly to scatter his son’s ashes into the Pacific. Though Mednick, who also helms, still inflicts his defective protagonist with an overabundance of verbiage from his internal recriminators (Donald Berman, Dana Wieluns), the scripter impressively widens the canvas of Gary’s adventures.
Particularly involving are Gary’s recurring interactions with his two wives, Gloria and Marcia (Casey). Diehl’s Gary actually appears to shrink in their presence, devastated by the intense need these two former mates now have to live truthful lives. Providing sinister commentary on Gary’s precarious situation as a street dweller are his encounters with a potentially lethal drug dealer Antonio (Berman) and dangerously territorial derelict Bob (Tom McCleister).
Injecting comic relief into Gary’s travel of woe is Marcia’s current hubby Vernon (Mickey Swenson), a successful commercial actor who embodies every characteristic of social adaptability that is missing in Gary. The fact that Vernon is an utter fool further underscores the inevitable oblivion that is facing Gary. Swenson’s Vernon supplies one of the play’s telling moments when he expounds on the virtues of television as the only true reflection of life on earth.
Underscoring the emotional subtext of both legiters is the beautifully evocative instrumental contributions of musician Don Preston, who alternates between keyboards and standup bass. The work is also enhanced by the understated sets of Jason Adams/Alicia Hoge and the lights of Kathi O’Donohue.