Letting Go is a collection of four one-acts about just that, “letting go.” In the first,
a mother must let go of hope and a daughter of lies. In the second, a dying man
must let go of his fragile hold on life. In the third, the mother of a young child must
let go of illusions. In the fourth, an older woman must let go of the past in order to
face the promise of the future.

Of the four playlets, the second, The Last Haircut, is the most effective, perhaps
because it seems the most rooted in truth. Sandy (Candice Martin) is shocked to
realize that the health of her good friend Jimmy (Barry Saltzman), who has AIDS,
has plummeted in the several months that she has not seen him. She finally
acknowledges that it is fear that has kept her away, and she vows to be a more
faithful friend, beginning by giving Jimmy a much needed haircut.  Alan (Corey
Smith), Jimmy’s lover, has his own difficulties in letting Jimmy go. Unlike the healthy
HIV+ Alan, Jimmy has never gone on meds, and Alan blames this for Jimmy’s
impending death. All three actors do fine work. Martin is very real in her confusion,
denial, and guilt. Smith goes deep within to express the pain of a man losing his
beloved unnecessarily, he feels. And Barry Saltzman, in a nearly wordless role,
transforms himself into a man visibly at the end of his days.  In a voice that comes
from a ravaged throat and with sunken haunted eyes that seem scarcely alive,
Saltzman gives an unforgettable performance.

Each of the other three short plays has its strong points. 

Never Walk Again tells of Lindsey, a bedridden young woman (Heidi Hurst) who has
lost the use of her legs (and a good deal of her memory) in an accident, and
cannot understand why her boyfriend (Danny Grossman) comes so rarely to visit. 
There is a wallop of a surprise midway through, and both Grossman and Lorilynn
Failor, as the young woman’s mother, do excellent work in a pivotal confrontation
scene. Lyda McPherson also appears as a sympathetic nurse.

The third play features Elisa Dyann as Vanessa, who is getting her 5-year-old son
ready for his First Day of School. Her sisters Linda and Jill (Stephanie Ortiz and Sarah
Kelly) arrive together in order to force her to face some painful truths.  Dyann is
excellent in a powerful scene with child actor (Michael Arnold the performance I
attended), and Ortiz was especially good.  Of all the plays, First Day of School
packs the biggest emotional punch with an ending which could bring forth tears
from a stone.

The program concludes with The Long Hello, as widowed retiree Dorothy (Bette
Smith) converses with her deceased spouse at his graveside, three years after his
death. The arrival of a more recent widower (Jayson Kraid) seems to promise hope
of a new beginning.  Both actors acquit themselves well in their roles, and the play
brings up a valid topic: which is preferable, a death which comes as a bolt out of
the blue, or a lingering death which allows time to say goodbye, but the agony of
waiting as well?

Writers/Directors/Performers Dyann and Martin have done generally fine work in
staging the four one-acts, making good use of the Raven’s stage (set design by
Yuki Nakamura).  In the first two plays, the left side depicts a room with a hospital
bed and the right another room where characters can talk in private. The stage is
quickly transformed into a child’s bedroom for the third play, and in a slightly
longer scene change, the fourth play takes place in a cemetery. Though relatively
barebones, the gray-walled set does not have the cave-like gloom of most “black
box” theaters. The lighting by Eric “Chewie” Johann is effective in allowing fairly
quick scene changes. Background music for the blackouts between playlets has
been well chosen as well, featuring songs by Donovan, Annie Lennox, and Eric
Clapton, among others.

Still, Letting Go, with the exception of The Last Haircut, feels like a work in progress.  
In Never Walk Again, an added first scene between mother and nurse might help
clarify Lindsey’s situation without spoiling the surprise. Some of the first part of First
Day at School did stretch my credibility, and I wonder if the play would work better
if one (no need for two) of Vanessa’s sisters had arrived (like the audience)
unaware of how Vanessa was responding to Frankie’s first day of school and
responded accordingly. Finally, though I can understand why The Long Hello,
being the most hopeful, was chosen to finish the program, more dramatic conflict
(a sudden burst of anger and/or tears from the widow?) or perhaps a more
comedic tone might have made it a stronger choice for the final play. At about 65
minutes, Letting Go does seem rather short for those planning an evening at the

Quibbles aside, Letting Go is a worthy effort by two very talented young
writer/director/actors which offers its audience many rewarding moments, some
fine performances, and the chance to ponder what each of us would (or will have
to) do in these painful situations.

The Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
–Steven Stanley
October 14, 2007

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