Los Angeles Theater Review: BENCHED (InterACT at Avery Schreiber)

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by Tom Chaits on February 7, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

BENCHED SHOULD HAVE BEEN BENCHED

A cantankerous senior gets his dander up when he discovers a stranger occupying his favorite Central Park bench in the L.A. premiere of Richard Broadhurst’s Benched. Five minutes into the show I began wishing that the squatter would simply get up and leave so I could as well. No such luck.

Max (Eddie Jones) is in a “to be or not to be” quandary, trying to figure out what to do, if anything, to make his dwindling time on earth worthwhile. Randall (John Towey), the mystical and mysterious intruder has a few ideas. Unfortunately, the ideas that flow in the resulting verbal volley are trite, superficial, and uninvolving. Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema review of InterACTS's production of Benched at Avery Schreiber in NoHoMr. Broadhurst’s script wants to have depth and insight but in actuality he merely skims the surface of life’s complexities.

Along the way we meet Max’s granddaughter Katherine (Kelly Lohman) who manages to bring some much needed humanity to the story. Alas her visit is too short and all too soon we’re back to more benign blathering.

After a short intermission, we’re back on the same bench five years later. A young man (Matt Fowler) jogs by. His stage time is even more fleeting than Katherine’s and completely inconsequential. The cross talk between Max and Randall continues for a blessedly brief ten minutes and then the show is over. Was it really necessary to have an intermission only to return for a twelve-minute Act II?  Why the show isn’t performed straight through is a real head-scratcher. There simply is no reason for it at all.

Mr. Jones is a familiar face to anyone who has gone to the movies or watched television in the last 30 years. He is one of those “go-to” character guys that always delivers and he’s got the list of credits and accolades to prove it. In fact, he won the Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema review of InterACTS's production of Benched at Avery Schreiber in NoHoL.A. Drama Critics’ Best Actor Award for his portrayal of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. Mr. Towey has performed with some of the most prestigious theaters in the country including The Guthrie in Minneapolis, The Arena Stage in D.C. and the New York Public Theatre. Clearly these two lead actors have the chops to salvage this mediocre material but something goes terribly awry.

The blame for this one must rest on the shoulders of director Anita Khanzadlan. Although she herself is a multi-award winning director (L.A. Drama Critics’ Best Director Award for Death of a Salesman with Mr. Jones) you would never know it from her work here. There is a lot of “acting” going on up on stage and I don’t mean that in a good way. The only remarkable thing about the performances is that they memorized the words. There isn’t one real or honest moment. Mr. Jones and Mr. Towey are merely saying the lines and it’s not only a big disappointment, it’s a total waste of talent.

Tom Chaits' Stage and Cinema review of InterACTS's production of Benched at Avery Schreiber in NoHoJust before the show begins, Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” begins to play. It sets the mood perfectly and you’re ready to be entertained.  Soon enough though, you begin wishing you were “Movin’ Out.”

photos by Alan Naggar

Benched
InterACT Theatre Company
Avery Schreiber Theatre in NoHo
scheduled to end on March 24, 2013
for tickets, call (818) 765-8732
or visit http://www.interactla.org

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