Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
The VandalChance Theater
A woman (Amanda Zarr) sits on a bench on a cold night waiting for a bus. The bench is somewhat remote: nearby are a hospital and a cemetery. A young man (Sam Bullington) suddenly appears, eager to talk. Understandably, the woman is reticent about engaging with him, but he is very persuasive, as well as clearly bright. The talk even runs to metaphysics, life and death, something most high school boys would be hard pressed to discuss intelligently, if at all.
The initial conversation comes down to a request: the boy wants the woman to buy beer for him from the nearby bodega. After resisting at first, she agrees. At the bodega, she encounters the owner (Robert Foran), who tells her that the boy is his son. The man presses the woman for details of her encounter and in the process elicits some of her story.
The woman is intrigued and lets the bus pass by when it arrives, in favor of hiking into the cemetery to see graves that may have been vandalized. She encounters both the boy and the man there, and a spooky, "Twilight Zone"-like accounting of truth and falsehood ensues.
As it turns out, each character has reasons for telling the truth and for lying.
Chance is presenting The Vandal on the Fyda-Mar Stage, its smaller space, which provides both the appropriate physical and psychological intimacy for the story. A set of risers and a chain-link fence serve as the cemetery. The final scene gets a bit awkward, visually, but it works well enough (Joe Holbrook is the scenic designer). Lighting (Nick Van Houten) and sound (Cricket S. Myers) designs evoke lonely nights near places of death and life. Elizabeth Cox's costumes fit the characters well.
Each of the three actors play to a hallmark. Mr. Bullington's is the energy of a young man who is discovering things for the first time. Mr. Foran's travels from gruff disbelief to laid-back wooer. Ms. Zarr holds her cards close to her, as befits a woman alone at night. She does have a hand to play, though, and she plays it with style, both bluffing and truth-telling as needed. Kari Hayter's direction coaxes layered performances from each actor that serve to smooth over both rough and slow spots in the script. The result is moody, focused, and eerie.
The Vandal runs through October 27, 2019, at Chance Theater, 5522 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim CA. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m., with special Saturday matinee performances on October 12 and 19 at 3 p.m. For tickets and information, call 888-455-4212 or visit chancetheater.com.