Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Los Angeles

The Revisionist
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Review by Terry Morgan


Deanna Dunagan and Seamus Mulcahy
Photo by Kevin Parry
When a celebrity writes a play, the first reasonable question is whether the endeavor is an ego trip or the real deal. Happily, I can report that Jesse Eisenberg's The Revisionist resides in the latter category. He can write, and his subject matter isn't the expected twentysomething lament but instead a detailed character study. That being said, it meanders a bit and ultimately seems slight. The West Coast premiere at the Wallis, however, is about as good a production as there could be for this play, with a terrific performance by Deanna Dunagan.

Young novelist David (Seamus Mulcahy) has just arrived in Poland to stay with his World War II survivor relative Maria (Deanna Dunagan) while he revises his second book. Maria is thrilled to have a member of the family stay with her, but finds to her disappointment that David wants to be left alone to work and isn't really there to visit with her. It soon becomes apparent, though, that David isn't actually doing any writing, and he and Maria begin to bond. Her stories of the war fascinate him, and as time passes, the lonely Maria begins to have hopes that David will stay in Poland with her.

Dunagan does subtle, solid work as Maria, nailing the accent and Polish dialogue. She seems more like a genuine person than a fictional character, walking around Tom Buderwitz's realistic apartment set as if she's lived there for years. Mulcahy is also good, but looks and acts so much like Eisenberg (who played the role in New York) that it's distracting. He leans into the character's rudeness and selfish nature, which provides a lot of mean humor. Ilia Volok is convincing as the mercenary taxi driver Zenon, both in moments of kindness and brutality.

Director Robin Larsen gets strong work from her cast. The choice, however, to have light pulsing from below the floorboards at various moments feels extraneous, although this may have been specified in the script. Eisenberg's script is full of odd moments (such as David walking in on Zenon shaving Maria's legs) and rude humor ("Did you learn that from Stalin?"). He's clearly an intelligent and thoughtful writer, but this play feels like a journeyman still learning his craft. It bodes well for his future writing, though, and I look forward to seeing more of his work.

The Revisionist plays at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts through April 17, 2016. Tickets and info are available at TheWallis.org.

The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts presents The Revisionist by Jesse Eisenberg. Directed by Robin Larsen. Lighting Designer, Leigh Allen; Scenic Designer, Tom Buderwitz; Costume Designer, Jocelyn Hublau Parker; Sound Designer and Music Composition, John Zalewski; Production Stage Manager, Elle Aghabala.

Cast:
Maria : Deanna Dunagan
David : Seamus Mulcahy
Zenon : Ilia Volok




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