Los Angeles Theater Review: ONE NOVEMBER YANKEE (NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood)

by Tom Chaits on November 26, 2012

in Theater-Los Angeles


Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of ONE NOVEMBER YANKEE at NoHo Arts Center, Los AngelesIt’s a no brainer to assume that with two marquee names (Loretta Swit and Harry Hamlin) and the backing of the multi-award winning NoHo Arts Center Ensemble that One November Yankee would be a sure bet to take off and soar to great heights, but even with its impressive pedigree it’s not all smooth air and the audience is in for a bumpy flight.

The plot of this world premiere play written and directed by Joshua Ravetch revolves around three pairs of siblings in different circumstances linked by an ill-fated flight. In this case the common thread is a crashed yellow Piper J-3 Cub airplane (beautifully realized on stage by set designer Dana Moran Williams). The title refers to the call letters on the plane’s tail – 1NY. First we are introduced to Maggie and Ralph as he puts the final touches on his artistic installation in preparation for the opening at the art gallery where his sister is employed. Now that Maggie sees the crashed plane she is not quite sure how wise it was to convince the board to award the commission to her brother. Sibling bickering ensues. Then we travel back five years to a woods in New Hampshire where a plane has just crashed. Margo and Henry, an older Jewish intellectual couple, are on their way to Florida but due to a series of mishaps and missteps their plane takes a dive. Sibling bickering ensues. As Act II opens we jump back to the same woods on the same day the art opening is scheduled to take place. Two hikers, Mia and Ronnie have wandered far into the forest and discovered the crash site. Sibling bickering ensues. Finally we are taken back to the art gallery at the conclusion of the opening where Maggie and Ralph reflect on the evening’s events. Sibling bickering ensues.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of ONE NOVEMBER YANKEE at NoHo Arts Center, Los AngelesAll six parts are played by Ms. Swit and Mr. Hamlin with varying degrees of success. Ms. Swit delivers a well-crafted performance making slight adjustments to each character’s traits resulting in a subtle, nuanced and inevitably believable performance. Mr. Hamlin does not live up to her standards. In the opening scene he comes off as uninvolved and merely saying his lines (in his defense, many of his lines are cerebral and filled with artsy mumbo-jumbo and are difficult to say in a natural sounding manner). In the second scene he has adopted a thick Jewish accent that comes off as amateurish, stereotypical and cartoony. He fares better as hiker Ronnie and finally seems to have a real connection with Ms. Swit. In the final scene he is inebriated and comes dangerously close to overdoing the “drunk”   bit but in the end he manages to avoid going over the cliff and has some nice interactions with Ms. Swit.

Tom Chaits’ Stage and Cinema review of ONE NOVEMBER YANKEE at NoHo Arts Center, Los AngelesI always question the wisdom of a writer directing his own work. While Mr. Ravetch does an admirable job I think the play would have been better served by a director who could have brought a new and fresh interpretation to the piece. The combination of the real world and the artistic world offers some great opportunities for cross pollinating and the examination of how lives are often unknowingly interweaved in an interesting premise. With a fresh pair of eyes examining the play, I think the message of universal connectivity would have been more profoundly realized. In any event, while not a turbulence free affair, One November Yankee is one flight worth taking. Happy landings.

photos by Robert Arbogast

One November Yankee
NoHo Arts Center Ensemble at the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood
scheduled to end on January 5 12, 2013
for tickets, call (818) 508-7101 ext. 6 or visit http://www.nohoartscenter.com

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