If you haven’t caught the two-person play Richard Parker (alternating performances at Open Fist and Theatre of Note), you might want to catch it before it leaves Hollywood. Imported from the UK and fresh from a well-received run at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival, the artists behind the U.S. premiere of Parker are racking up critical praise from American press and audiences.
[For those of you who failed geography, Cardiff is the capital city of Wales and the 10th largest city in the UK. Here’s a MAP.]
Actor Alastair Sill and actor/director Gareth John Bale originated the roles in Parker created by Welsh playwright Owen Thomas when the play first appeared in 2008. A drama teacher by day, Thomas takes the play’s ongoing success in stride with appreciation for the trio’s creative chemistry from the beginning.
“We met and just clicked,” Thomas describes their 2007 meeting. “It’s been really incredible how it’s all come about for us. I was always writing with them in mind for the roles.”
Watching the three on a sofa in the Open Fist lobby you can imagine shared pints and banter as they cheer on the European Football Championships (that’s soccer to us Yankees). But they quickly focus their articulate attention when talking about their work.
What started as a commission for a 20-minute script performed in Cardiff, Parker was immediately well-received. Thomas was asked to expand the short into a larger work for touring. This full-length version of Parker has since toured the UK twice and Wales before heading to Edinburgh last summer, receiving multiple four and five star reviews from major press outlets.
A producer with Fringe Management caught the show in Edinburgh and approached the team about coming to America. Hello, Hollywood Fringe. They are now experiencing the play with a fresh perspective thanks to American audiences.
“I suppose British audiences tend to be more reserved with their responses,” Thomas says. “Americans are more open, more comfortable with laughing out loud. It’s been great how different the reactions are between audiences.”
There are laughs but also plenty to think about. Parker’s carefully threaded storyline debates the logic of coincidence versus fate with very high stakes—part mystery, part absurd comedy unfolding to the characters and audience simultaneously. Running a clean 60-minutes, Parker fits well into a busy day of theater-going at the Hollywood Fringe which they are excited to be a part of.
“It’s great that it’s growing here,” Sill (actor) says of the Hollywood Fringe. “It’s always going to be difficult when given a slot in the middle of a week day. But you can’t argue with the website, the venues, the links to reviews. Everyone eager to help. It’s all very well done here.”
But it’s not all work for the Parker team. They just celebrated Bale’s birthday at Griffith Park and have plans to take in Santa Monica and a Dodger game—and more great American food. Not bad for their very first trip to Los Angeles. They have 6 shows left as of this posting. Check them out…
About the Author: Amy Tofte is a writer/director who worked way too hard for her SAG card that she stubbornly hangs on to. She has her MFA from CalArts (Writing for Performance) and has seen her work produced all over the country and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She is a founding member of Fierce Backbone in Los Angeles (a theater dedicated to all levels of play development) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America. Visit Amy at http://amytofte.com