An effective use of reverse chronology and a luminous Genevieve Joy are the two best reasons to catch Like Blood From A Cheap Cigar, Joy’s short, bittersweet look at love gone bad, now concluding a limited run at Hollywood’s Hudson Guild Theatre following its Hollywood Fringe Festival debut this past June.
It’s hard to imagine how Joy’s girl-next-door pretty Margo ever even considered dating the washed-up piece of human wreckage that stops by her dingy apartment late one night to tell his fatally-attracted ex to leave him the hell alone. (Margo’s been spending recent nights in George’s driveway, the better to be near her onetime lover, no matter that he’s now shacking up with her skanky nemesis.)
Paunchy, slovenly, twenty years her senior, with a bird’s nest mane of Brillo-pad hair and dark circles round his eyes, George would appear to be the last man pert blonde standup comic Margo would even give the time of day, let alone fall for and obsess over. (Try to imagine a The Producers-era Zero Mostel at his most unsavory opposite Debbie Reynolds circa Singin’ In The Rain and you’ll have some idea of how mismatched these too are.)
Factor in George’s cocaine addiction and if you’re like this reviewer, you may find yourself wondering, what the fuck?
Fortunately, Joy’s script finds considerable odd-couple humor in the incongruous pairing even during the battling exes’ more off-putting moments. Margo can deliver barbed insults with the best of them, and much laughter is mined from George’s waste-not, want-not nature where coke is concerned.
Even more fortunately, by devoting the concluding chunk of her 45-minute dramedy to Margo and George’s first date (he cleans up surprisingly well), it becomes a bit easier to fathom her initial attraction, and much like Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years, there is poignancy in witnessing the innocence of beginnings with the knowledge of just how badly things turned out.
Under Kimberley Browning’s intense direction, playwright/star Joy gives a performance that is fiery and fierce and funny, and a dynamic Joseph D. Reitman humanizes the human shambles that is George.
Steven Pope is technical director.
Picture an accident scene you can’t take your eyes away from. Then imagine the innocent joy with which it all began. That’s Like Blood From A Cheap Cigar in a nutshell.
Hudson Guild Theatre , 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles.
September 6, 2016