Tuesday, 27 January 2015
A Perfect Storm of Talent Brings O’Neill Classic to Life at Odyssey Theatre
Written by Jan James
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble knocks it out of the park with their latest production of Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna Christie starring Jeff Perry and his real-life daughter Zoe Perry as estranged father and daughter “Chris” and “Anna Christopherson.”
Anna Christie, a timeless story written in 1921, is every bit as relevant today as it was back then. A father, whose job takes him away from home, becomes estranged from his family. His wife becomes ill and dies. The daughter gets shipped off to be cared for by relatives where she is not treated well and eventually runs away, ending up as a prostitute. After 15 years apart, the father and daughter reunite and try to establish a relationship—neither one knowing the real truth about the other.
Jeff Perry, currently starring as the White House chief of staff in the hit television show Scandal, gives an incredible performance not to be missed, as the drunken Swedish sailor turned protective father in this production skillfully directed by Kim Rubinstein. His daughter Zoe gives an equally impressive performance as the title character Anna, trying to reconnect with her father and rebuild her life. Their lives are complicated by a young Irish sailor they rescue from death by the sea. Kevin McKidd (Grey’s Anatomy) gives a passionate performance as the young sailor completing this trifecta of talent.
The play is set in and around the sea often referred to by Chris as “The Devil.” The set is a simple 8 x 12 foot plank surrounded by water—doubling as both a waterfront saloon and a coal barge. Between the water and the added effect of the fog from time to time, the audience feels as if they have indeed been transported to the sea. In one scene, a few audience members very likely may recieve a bit of a splash when someone is sent overboard, in an area near the stage that should be designated as the “splash zone.” The action is intense and at times quite physical.
The complex layers of the story reveal intense drama, laughs and the amazing strength of the human spirit. As Anna puts it, “We are all born nuts and then we get mixed together.” Her amazing strength mixed with gentle (sometimes vulnerable) transformation, especially when she starts to fall for Matt, shows how much the human spirit can take and then heal itself.
Chris is from a long line of sailors, and all the women in the family marry sailors. He is determined to keep Anna from marrying a sailor, because as he sees it the sea is the devil that torments and eventually kills everyone he loves. Anna on the other hand feels drawn to the sea—and to the young sailor.
This incredibly talented cast gives an amazing performance from start to finish. Set designer Wilson Chin’s minimal set works perfectly to give the characters the room they need, while it lets the audience feel as if indeed they are on a barge at sea. The water surrounding the stage is quite an accomplishment as well.
Kudos to Odyssey Theatre for bringing this classic story to the stage as part of their 2015 season. Make your reservations early to see Anna Christie before it sells out. You will be glad to be a witness to this beautifully crafted performance.
Anna Christie will be running on Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm through March 8th at the Odyssey Theatre, located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Limited onsite parking is available for $3. For tickets call (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or go to www.OdysseyTheatre.com. Some discounts are available for students and Equity/SAG/AFTRA members for Saturday matinee performances.