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Grimly Handsome
City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center
Santa Monica, CA
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Grimly Handsome
A pair of Christmas tree salesmen secretly wreak havoc in NYC. A pair of detectives are bent on catching a serial killer. A young woman finds herself drawn into a cat-and-mouse game and transformed in ways she could never have imagined. Well, maybe she could've. Meanwhile, wild animals have been sighted in the vacant lot across the street. Are they dogs? Raccoons? Or something more ferocious?  In Julia Jarcho's Obie Award-winning poetic, often very funny drama, reality is fluid and facts are elusive. Perpetrators become victims, police detectives become suspects, and nature becomes an id-like witness to the treacherous life of the city. Don't miss the west coast premiere of one of Americas most imaginative and powerful new theatrical voices.

Dark, often sinister danger lurks in all corners. Follow me, the playwright insists; neither of us knows exactly where were going.

New York Times Critics Pick

A superbly wicked caprice.Go blithely into her Grimm landscape, which rustles with talking animals, smiling predators and language gone elliptical and awry.

Time Out  5 out of 5 Stars

"I am taking an online class from my old college about comparative fairy tales  not the cutesy Disney stuff, but the darker, more horrifying tales of little children falling into wells and drowning, or witches being shoved into ovens and roasted alive. So perhaps it was no surprise that, as I was watching playwright Julia Jarchos dark kaleidoscopic tale of danger and menace, I suddenly realized, Oh my goodness  this is just Little Red Riding Hood! And not the sweet Little Red Riding Hood, either  its far more of a brooding modern day variant of the tale, rich with menace and elements of ambiguous weirdness.

"But to call this play a fairy tale isnt quite accurate either: There are odd tangents and unexpected developments that are simultaneously creative, imaginative and impenetrable. You may not know exactly what youre seeing, but it still packs quite a dynamic dramatic charge.
In an anonymous American city, a sweet young lady (Lindsay Plake) ventures into a Christmas tree lot, looking for a tree. She chats genially with the two grim dudes who are working as salesmen, and develops a crush on handsome and masculine Alesh (Anthony M. Sannazzara) though shes unnerved by his creepy one-eyed partner, Gregor (Andrew Loviska). As they talk, it becomes clear that the men barely speak English. The girl doesnt realize it but that they are discussing, in their own language, how they are going to drug and murder her. She just thinks theyre funny and cute  but then they perform a horrific act upon her.

"Later, Sannazaro and Laviska return as two homicide detectives investigating the murders (Theres more than one). They brutally interrogate a suspect (Plake, in flannel male drag) whom they think knows more than he is saying.  But the two cops have secrets of their own. Finally, in a weird epilogue that must be seen to be believed, the three performers don animal suits and pretend to be raccoons devouring the corpse of one of the dead characters.

"Director Frederique Michel stages the surreal elements with a crisp panache thats peppered with terrifying dark humor. Its really all very original and disturbing on an elemental level. Amidst the intriguing mood of menace and unpredictability, Michel sets up a number of questions that might have answers  or not, giving the almost gleefully maddening and oblique nature of the text. For instance: Is there some connection between the three sets of characters who are played by the same actors  or is this just a theatrical conceit to display the performers versatility.

"Although one might wish for a quicker pace during the first half, the ensemble demonstrates compelling adeptness. Laviska is particularly spooky as the one-eyed killer, and then intriguing as the guilt-racked detective. Sannazzara is downright creepy as the leering tree salesman,  and then affecting as the other (somehow sad) cop.  Plake actually holds it together with a series of scene-stealing performances as the hapless victim in the early scenes and the oafish suspect later on. Of the sequence in which the three performers portray raccoons well, its just truly bizarre, especially when taken as part of the dream-like fairy tale context."  

Reviewed by Paul Birchall
City Garage
Through February 26

"In an unnamed East Coast city, its the Yuletide season, a time when vacant lots are transformed into festive mini-forests of freshly cut fir trees and piped-in carols  and when vaguely sinister, Slavic-accented Christmas tree salesmen enact a grim ritual unspeakably darker than the peddling of holiday decor.

Or at least thats the setup of Grimly Handsome, Julia Jarchos philosophical and blackly funny, 2013 burlesque, which is receiving its West Coast premiere at Santa Monicas City Garage Theatre. The script, which riffs on the venerable serial-killer suspense thriller, deftly uses the ultra-familiar conventions of the police procedural to lure audiences into the deeper mystery of identity, and how human intimacy is ineluctably intertwined with a predatory savagery that defines us as a species.

Act 1 follows the antics of Gregor (Andrew Loviska) and Alesh (Anthony Sannazzaro), a duo of émigré Slavs who may be linked to Balkan war crimes, as they role-play in preparation for their next victim. That turns out to be Natalia (Lindsay Plake), an emotionally broken and lonely reader of hardboiled serial-killer pulp fiction. Act 2 pivots to the murderers police counterparts, as homicide detectives Greggins (Loviska) and Alpert (Sannazzaro) probe the latest predation by the holiday psychopath whom the press has dubbed the Christmas Ripper.

It is with the entrance of Alperts wife, Nelly (Plake), and the introduction of her extramarital affair with Greggins that the play makes a loopy left turn and the investigation begins its delirious inward spiral. Jarchos close parallel of relationship triangles  one of killers and victim, the other of lovers and cuckold  collides in a tangle of plot lines and characters that swap identities like quick-change costumes.

I think we might be wrong when we call each other by names, Nelly tells Greggins at one point. And so you and Al, for instance, youre the same event, just laid out at different points in time and space. That event, an Act 3 homage to Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey suggests, is the process of subjectification through which we construct the identities and root the relationships that stave off dislocation and keep our bestial natures safely stowed in the evolutionary closet.

Director Frédérique Michels fluid staging ably animates Jarchos trove of ideas and poetic images (abetted by Charles Duncombes sleek production design and Josephine Poinsots witty costumes), and Loviska, Plake and Sannazzaro act with versatility and conviction  perhaps a bit too much conviction, as it turns out.

Jarcho, who has a long association with New York experimental playwright Richard Maxwell, is well known for sharing Maxwells rigorous style of deadpan neutrality and punctuated inflection. Here, Michel opts for something more heightened and emotionally schematic. In a town dominated by industry camera acting as Los Angeles is, the compromise is understandable, but the lost layer of formal irony exacts a cost. Her production delivers Grimly Handsomes intellectual goods but it clocks in shy of what should have been a much heartier laugh quotient."

-Bill Raden, LA Weekly


City Garage at Bergamot Station Arts Center (View)
2525 Michigan Ave. Building T1
Santa Monica, CA 90404
United States


Arts > Theatre

Kid Friendly: No
Dog Friendly: No
Non-Smoking: Yes!
Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!



Wendy K.
Venice , CA United States
Feb 26, 2017 9:12 AM
Name Withheld
Culver City, CA United States
Feb 25, 2017 11:12 AM
Name Withheld
Culver City, CA United States
Feb 25, 2017 11:12 AM
Name Withheld
Los Angeles, CA United States
Feb 25, 2017 9:48 AM
Name Withheld
Los Angeles, CA United States
Feb 25, 2017 9:48 AM

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