An aging, wheelchair-bound 1960s movie goddess longs for a return to past glories. Her greatest fan, a young Australian aborigine hoping to break into the movie biz in Hollywood, still mourns the death of his two older brothers to suicide. A newspaper reporter remains incapable of recovering from the disappearance of his ten-year-old son years before.

The lives of these three disparate characters intersect in both “The Dreamtime” and “The Dream Factory” in John Walch’s powerful, engrossing, deeply moving The Dinosaur Within, now getting its most major production to date at Pasadena’s Theatre @ Boston Court under the inspired direction of Michael Michetti.


Walch’s dinosaurs are both literal and figurative.

The missing boy was endlessly fascinated by the gigantic creatures that once walked this earth. The Australian’s father is deeply troubled by the theft of a set of dinosaur tracks from his native land. The movie star’s daughter is so intrigued by their disappearance that she travels to the Land Down Under to investigate.

And then there are the “dinosaurs” inside these characters, fossilized memories which keep them imprisoned in their pasts and unable to forge a meaningful future.

Some of Walch’s characters meet in real life. Journalism school dropout Maria runs into Australian subway worker/actor wannabe Eli in Hollywood, and learning of his adoration for her movie star mother Honey Wells, gives him Miss Wells’ phone number, prompting a meeting between film legend and film buff (whom she mistakes for a Hollywood agent). Maria learns of the stolen dinosaur prints from Eli and is then sent down under by Jerry, her former journalism instructor (and the missing boy’s father) to research a follow-up story to the one he originally wrote. Her guide to the mysteries of Australia is none other than Eli’s aborigine father Worru.

70something Honey and her 20something self meet in Honey’s fantasies, and missing boy Tommy finds his father Jerry in Jerry’s dreams.

And then there is the Dreamtime of aborigine legend, where the elderly Honey and Worru face their impending deaths together.

If all this sounds a tad too artsy (a red flag for this reviewer if there ever was one), rest assured. Walch’s characters are so real and the situations they find themselves in so relatable that I found myself riveted from start to finish and profoundly moved by the experience of spending two and a half hours with the people he has created.

The cast assembled at Boston Court simply could not be better, from Shauna Bloom’s plucky, wounded Maria to Mimi Cozzens’ fragile, imperious Honey Sr. to Chuck McCollum’s haunted, determined Jerry. The movie star-gorgeous Emily Kosloski is absolutely convincing as the glamorous young Honey. Nic Few exhibits leading man sex appeal and charisma (and some darned fine acting chops) as both Eli and an African American parking attendant in Honey’s past. Recent Melbourne-to-Los Angeles transplant VJ Kesh brings decades of life experience and innate dignity to the role of Worru. Young Ari Sky is a charmer as lost boy Tommy. Scott Alan Smith and Rebecca Tinley both excel at plum multiple-role assignments, Tinley most notably as Jerry’s frustrated wife and Honey’s caring servant. Smith lucks out with twice as many parts to play, in particular a scene-stealing turn as a pretentious acting school guru and a night-and-day different one as a heartbreaking Alzheimer’s patient.

Working with director Michetti, scenic designer Francois-Pierre Couture has created a multilevel set which takes as its inspiration natural history museum exhibits, dioramas, and excavation sites, the latter a particularly apt choice given the play’s many excavations, both literal and figurative. Michetti’s and Couture’s combined efforts, and those of lighting designer extraordinaire Jeremy Pivnick, insure that the play’s countless scene changes and superimposed realities take place seamlessly. Bruno Louchouarn’s original music and sound design prove seductive mood enhancers. Leah Piehl’s excellent costumes run the gamut from young Honey’s Hollywood glamour to Worru’s native aborigine garb. Jason H. Thompson has created a number truly extraordinary projections, most notably some absolutely authentic looking black-and-white “footage” of Honey at a ‘60s Grauman’s Chinese Theater footprint ceremony. Nick Santiago’s props are spot-on, as are the cast’s various dialects coached by Tracy Winters and Tuffet Schmelzle. June Carryl is assistant director and Nicole Rossi production stage manager.

The Dinosaur Within held me enthralled from start to finish. It is that theatrical rarity, a play which can be enjoyed equally by traditional playgoers, who will respond to its very real, deeply moving storylines, and by more adventurous ones, who will appreciate the artistry and imagination with which playwright Walch has tied them together. This beautiful play and production concludes the Theatre @ Boston Court’s 2011 season on an exquisitely high note indeed.

Theatre @ Boston Court, 70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena.

–Steven Stanley
October 10, 2011
Photos: Ed Krieger

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