There’s a whole lot of fourth-wall-breaking going on in Go Back To Where You are, David Greenspan’s magical seventy-five minute bit of meta-theatrical romance and whimsy now getting an admittedly brain-challenging but absolutely captivating West Coast Premiere by the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.
There’s not-so-successful 40something widowed gay playwright Bernard (Justin Huen), his slightly older widowed actress sister Claire (Shannon Holt), Claire’s schoolmate/second-string actress friend Charlotte (Tracy Winters), Claire’s manizing The Seagull director Tom (Bill Brochtrup), Tom’s long-suffering partner Malcolm (Jeffrey Hutchinson), Claire’s widowed gay TV writer son Wally (Andrew Walke), and Wally’s sister Carolyn, who’s neither gay nor widowed but much talked about (and resolutely offstage) throughout.
Finally, completing the cast of characters are a pair of uninvited though not unwelcome guests, a seemingly fifty-something Greek named Passalus and an elderly English matron.
That both Passolus and the British biddie are played by John Fleck (who remains in male garb for both) is a mystery introduced early on in a brief flashback into Greek mythology and explained bit by bit as the play goes on.
This flight of authorial daring on Greenspan’s part, plus the fact that it takes a good deal of concentration to piece together the relationships outlined in paragraph three, can easily turn Go Back To Where You Are into a head-scratcher for those expecting a more straightforward style of playwriting.
In order to avoid that reaction, I offer the following two spoiler paragraphs that will, I hope, do the opposite of spoiling Go Back To Where You Are for the unsuspecting playgoer.
Passalus, it turns out, is an ancient Greek chorus boy who, having spent the last two millennia in hell, is offered what he most desires, oblivion, if only he can rescue Claire’s daughter from her mother’s grasp. Granted the power to change shape at will, he is ordered in no uncertain terms to meddle in nobody’s life but the one he’s been charged to redeem.
There are a couple of problems, though. First, Passalus makes the mistake of talking to Bernard as himself. (Can you say attraction at first sight?) As for any attempt not to help the rest of the lonely, jealous, frustrated, mixed-up bunch of gay men and straight women so in need of heavenly aid, well good luck with that.
That each and every one of Greenspan’s characters can scarcely utter a sentence without breaking out of character to reveal their inner thoughts, or to inform us that what they just said they only wanted to say, or to comment on the play in which they’re appearing, is something I found utterly engaging.
That like any romcom worth its laughter and tears, Go Back To Where You Are has you invested in its lead couple’s happily-ever-after makes Greenspan’s play a particular romantic treat.
Fleck dazzles and delights as a shape-shifting Passalus, the divine Holt was born to play stage goddess Claire, Winters makes for a deliciously flighty Charlotte, Walke is a handsome charmer as Wally, and Hutchinson does delightful double duty as Malcolm and God.
As for the always terrific Huen and Brochtrup, each gets to play energizingly against type here, the former in oh so appealing Tom Hanks/Jimmy Stewart mold, the latter as the philandering spouse of the put-upon partner you’d normally expect him to play.
Go Back To Where You Are looks absolutely stunning on Nina Caussa’s East Coast shore set, lit to vivid perfection by Michael Gend, with Halei Parker’s just-right costumes completing the expert mix. (The production is deliberately sound design-free.)
Go Back To Where You Are may not be every theatergoer’s cup of tea, but I for one loved its every meta-theatrical moment. As for its final fadeout … pure bliss.
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles.
August 17, 2016
Photos: Enci Box