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February 8, 2016:

Forever House reviewed by Rob Stevens

Tony Abatemarco’s World Premiere play Forever House at the Skylight Theatre Company has some interesting characters and way too many plot threads. A gay couple is moving into a Craftsman home in a suburb of Los Angeles. Jack (a frenetic Michael Rubenstone) had lived there as a child. He has good and bad memories of the place—he was two years old and in his play pen when his father dropped dead and lay in front of him for hours before being discovered. Jack’s lover Ben (James Liebman) is a teacher and a handyman who hopes to restore the Craftsman to its original glory. Jack brings home champagne to celebrate but before he can pop the bottle, Gloria (Elyse Mirto), the bigoted head of the HOA, surprises them with a visit. She gets a surprise herself when she realizes her family oriented community has been invaded by homosexuals. At the same time, Ben decides to pressure Jack into starting a family of their own. With all the stress, Jack starts hearing sounds in the basement and seeing a small child. Is the house haunted or is Jack just losing his grip? Their drunken real estate agent Bill (Joel Swetow) admits he’s bi and sold them the house against Gloria’s wishes. Add in a visit from Ben’s boisterous Mother (Dale Raoul), an earthquake, a deeply religious couple (Mirto and Swetow again) who take refuge after losing their cottage to the quake and finally a gay rights diatribe by Jack in a visit to his imaginary Gayland and you have way too much plot and too little focus.

There is some nice writing here but what is the play really about? Francine (Mirto), the born again wife, has a lovely monologue about her past life as a Vegas showgirl. But what does that have to do with Jack’s commitment issues? The same with Bill’s bisexual revelations. Mirto and Swetow each create two vastly different characters but to what purpose? They seem characters brought in from other plays. Raoul adds much needed comedy relief in her one brief scene. The leading players are good but their characters are a bit stereotypical and at the same time thin and underdeveloped. Elizabeth Swain directed but there was not much she could do to make sense of all the disjointed plot lines and characters. She just gave her actors the stage.

3stars

Skylight Theatre Complex, 1816 ½ N. Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles. Ends Feb. 28. 213-761-7061 or http://skylighttix.com.

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