WHO NEEDS HORSES? FARM BOY GALLOPS ALL ON ITS OWN
War Horse is the theatrical juggernaut that took London by storm, crossed the pond, swept the Tony Awards and hit the road, recently completing a run at the Ahmanson Theatre. The majesty of the fantastical staging—especially the life-sized horses created by the Handspring Puppet Company—provided safe cover for the overly sentimental and at times cheesy and improbable storyline of a boy (Albert), his horse (Joey) and WWI. Based on the 1982 kid friendly novel by Michael Morpurgo, the story also received big screen treatment from director Steven Spielberg. Now Morpugo’s 1997 sequel Farm Boy trots into town in its West Coast Premiere at the Matrix Theatre and proves to be the rich and rewarding polar opposite of its predecessor.
With nary a horse in sight, the two-character drama, adapted for the stage by Daniel Buckroyd, picks up the story with Albert’s son (veteran actor Lawrence Pressman) and great grandson (newcomer Simon Lees) as the pair bond down home on the family farm. The opening minutes of the script read like a “previously on…” recap of the original, but it’s hardly necessary since the plot stands up on its own with or without the back story. This time out it’s not a boy and his horse but a boy and his Gramps and their mutual love of the land.
As Grandfather and Grandson, Pressman and Lees give astonishing and mesmerizing performances. Under the direction of David Fofi, the pair’s fine-tuned portrayals have you hanging on their every word. The puppets in War Horse transported you to a different world, but in Farm Boy it is the power of the actors’ work that opens your mind and ignites your imagination; they are an honor to watch. The set design by Aaron Glazer, complete with an actual antique Fordson tractor, is extremely effective in its representative simplicity (look carefully and you’ll see two horses rising from the clouds in the mural on the back wall); Joel Daavid’s atmospheric lighting sets the perfect mood for the piece; and the original music by Katrina Wood conjures up place and time and suits the material well.
The only disappointing aspect of the play is its length. At just slightly more than 60 minutes it’s not, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, long enough. Doesn’t anyone write a full-length play anymore?
photos by David Sprague
A guest production at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles
scheduled to end on August 26, 2012
for tickets, call (800) 838-3006 or visit here