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mother and child union: the colors of Red Light Green Light
A lot's happened in the interim between the closing of Yellow Flesh /Alabaster Rose and the realization of this, its sequel.
ROSE: ... I look at these [baby] shoes and I start to think about the feet that are gonna be in these shoes. Little feet. Boy feet. Little boy feet attached to little boy legs attached to little boy...boy. It’s just kind of crazy because he seems so small and vulnerable and I haven’t even had him yet---I mean, if I’m neurotic now, imagine how crazy I’m gonna be after he’s born...
return to the 101 Cafe, a year later with Erik Patterson, Miguel Montalvo, and Rachel Kann...
A lot's happened in the interim between the closing of Yellow Flesh/Alabaster Rose and the realization of Red Light Green Light, its sequel. When last I interviewed these folks at the 101 Cafe about Yellow Flesh, Erik had a tuna melt. This time out, he's 45 pounds lighter and attacking a cantaloupe with fervor. So what else is new?
Well, Rachel won the Critic's Pick from Backstage Weekly and an LA Weekly Award (Best Supporting Actress) for her portrayal of Rose. Erik won a Garland Award for Best Play. It's been a good year for a great production.
So why a Part 2? Because the functionally dysfunctional characters that Erik created reminded him of people he knows (or knew) intimately -- he calls them "my extended family." And as an audience member who only missed one performance during the run of Yellow Flesh, he wanted to know more about where these folks were headed.
Since Erik couldn't let the characters go, he had to write a second play to continue his dialogue with them. Upon completing it, he realized that there were about fifteen places that he wanted to take them that didn't fit within the next story; so he decided to make the series a trilogy. But after outliningwhat he wanted to happen, there were still too many places to go. The adventures of this family will now be a Decalogue; a ten play cycle...!
With yellow flesh, Erik explored what love does to the world.
Red light shows us what love's limitations are; what love can't fix.
Trev Broudy, a voiceover artist, was attacked coming out of a West Hollywood club. The severity of the attack rendered him incapable of having the mental capacity to work again in his chosen medium. Using this event as kind of an emotional springboard, Erik explored how he felt as a gay man and moreover, as a human being, about the issue of hate crimes, through the characters he’d already cultivated in the first play...
Now, this stands on its own even if you haven't seen Yellow Flesh...Thematically, this play's a western. It's about exploring new frontiers. About outlaws, people who live on the edge of society -- Goth teens, lesbian strippers, hustlers. This is about family coming together. In RLGL, we experience a fully-formed, albeit non-traditional, family. The formation of the family unit seals itself.
It's about mothers working out their roles...alone.
MOM: ...You spend half your life trying to be perfect, and then you realize it’s hard enough just being good.
So you spend the second half of your life trying to be good.
Or you give up.
I’m still trying.
It can all get somewhat overwhelming.
Especially the mothering part, because how do you instill those values in your kids when you’re still trying to figure them out for yourself?
Fathers are missing from the equation. The father of Becky, Elliott, and Little B has a presence that still hangs over the family in ways that manifest during the play. Damien, the ex-boyfriend of Rose and father of her child, doesn't have a dad around. And he's not ready or willing to accept his parental responsibilities, either.
Be careful what you say around me.
Erik uses bits and pieces of his life and his friends' lives to help shape and guide the characters, after placing them in different situations. For instance, Caleb and Ruth have a dialogue that was directly cut-and-pasted from Erik's conversations with his mother about the same subject...
RUTH: ...You know, the thing that's...difficult...about being a parent,
is that you never know what your kid knows,
what your kid's not telling you,
what your kid's doing when you're not there...
Welcome to heightened language. The aesthetic in this piece is to be as raw and emotionally true as possible. These are people who have no subtext, desperately trying to survive through their actions...
this process is guided by returning director Miguel Montalvo, who also directed Yellow Flesh. He says that he's learned to direct because of these plays, and he's blessed that Theatre of Note and Erik took a chance on him.
Erik and Miguel, having worked together twice now, have a deepened vocabulary when it comes to writer-director dynamics, and certainly when it comes to these characters.
The Design Team? Lighting and sound design by Robert Oriol. Costumes by Ann Closs-Farley. Set design by Jason Adams and Alicia Hoge, the resident designers for the Evidence Room (we're overwhelmed with the sense of outside in the set design)...
This is a Los Angeles play through and through. All the locales are in LA. Strip clubs in Van Nuys, clubs in West Hollywood, restaurants in Santa Monica...it's a look at how the non-glamorous, normal people survive in this city...
And in the producer's seat, Lisa Kenner. It's her first time producing in LA. It's her first time producing a play...she's been raising money simply to bring Erik's vision to the stage. Miguel tells me with the utmost admiration and gratitude, "She's out there fighting for us every single day." Erik also sings Lisa's praises; says the producer is the "unsung hero of the theatre", performing all of this goodwill as a labor of love, all under the radar...
BECKY: ...The thing is, just when you think you've gotten control of--
a handle on--
your life...something will happen.
Like what happened to my brother...
Erik likens Red Light to The Empire Strikes Back, a metaphor that makes perfect sense. This time out we're faced with a play that's darker in tone and more emotional. Erik set the stakes high and anted up. And like "Empire", there's a definite sense that there is more to these character's journey.
Any last words, Red Lighters?
Erik: Something really special happened with Yellow Flesh, and it felt right to continue to explore that.
Miguel: It felt like a family reunion after the first read. I missed them!
Rachel: Such a blessing.
Red Light Green Light opens May 28th at Theatre of NOTE, 1517 Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood. It runs Thursday through Saturday at 8 PM through July 10. Tickets are $15.00. Reservations can be made at 323.856.8611.
You can read the original article on Yellow Flesh/Alabaster Rose right here.