The Rogue Machine is one of the best theatre companies in Los Angeles, producing some of the finest productions anywhere. Sadly, their latest effort Where the Great Ones Run wandered off their true artistic center and truly left me baffled.
The story basically is about a Country Star returning to his home town because he has been given three months to live due to cancer. Will those he deserted in his climb to fame receive him?
The actors were well trained, of varying talent, but the individual performers were either unintelligible, miscast, or they casually walked through their performances. How I longed to see the unsuccessful brother Buddy, (Mark St. Amant, a very good actor) surreptitiously looking at his triumphant sibling Sonny with that mixture of love and hate, jealousy and self-loathing, that only those who have failed or have been left behind know; it was not clear whether or not Buddy’s drunken antics might well have been his acting out in reaction to his brother’s arrival. And where was the unspoken history between Sonny and his divorcée Marylou (Holly Fulger), who also looked far too pretty for her station in life (the world-weary waitress station).
Also missing was the unspeakable anguish in the look of tomboy Julie (Lily Holleman), Sonny’s abandoned child who meets with her father after a long absence for what might as well have been the very first time. Never for one moment did I believe that the hero Sonny knew death was imminent; nor did he display any concern that those he had forsaken would forgive him. And then there was the actor who played chorus to the action, but he spoke as if someone had their hands squeezed around his throat and I could not understand much of anything he said. Wasn’t there anyone at the helm to help him?
The worst culprit in this endeavor, however, was Mark Roberts’ play itself. Predictable, without depth, surprise, character development, or dramatic conflict, Where the Great Ones Run sorely needed an astute director to give it any significance whatsoever, but Mark L. Taylor, who could have gotten so much more from these actors, lacked a discerning eye in his absent direction.
Artists are entitled to their failures. Companies sometimes have flops. It’s all fodder for the better work that will undoubtedly follow for this admirable company (which has won 29 awards for excellence in the last two years alone). Keith Mitchell’s beautiful set could not have been better, with a cyclorama projecting images of haunting beauty and universality. Who knows if this production may have “entertainment” value that some will find sufficient cause to applaud, but most will have to look elsewhere to find where the great ones run.
photos by John Flynn
Where the Great Ones Run
Rogue Machine at Theatre/Theater in Los Angeles
scheduled to end on July 14
for tickets, call 855-585-5185 or visit http://www.roguemachinetheatre.com