29th Street Rep

Artistic Directors Tim Corcoran & David Mogentale

Presents

HIGH PRIEST OF CALIFORNIA

By CHARLES WILLEFORD

 

29th Street Rep

212 W. 29 St.

NYC

www.29thstreetrep.com

Tickets: (212) 206-1515 or www.smarttix.com

 

February 10 through March 29, 2003

 

Directed by LEO RARLEY

Sets MARK SYMCZAK

Costumes MICHELE METCALF

Lighting STEWART WAGNER

Sound/Original Music TIM CRAMER

Stage Manager AMBER GALLERY

Press Rep KAREN GRECO

 

Cast

(in order of appearance)

Blackie Victor – JAMES E. SMITH

Alyce Victor – CAROL SIRUGO

Russell Haxby – DAVID MOGENTALE

Stanley Sinkiewicz – JERRY LEWKOWITZ

Ruthie Mansfield – PAULA EWIN

Police Officer – TIM CORCORAN

 

California, 1953. A little mystery, a little romance, a little intrigue, a night at a dance hall, a house full of infidelity, and those signature black-seamed stockings. Welcome to the backdrop of Charles Willeford’s HIGH PRIEST OF CALIFORNIA. Welcome to an odd cast of characters, who, paired with the obvious influence of film noir, make for a very strange scene indeed.

In the opening moments of this play, we meet the punch-drunk boxer, Blackie Victor (convincingly portrayed by James E. Smith), as he watches television and spars with his past. Exit fallen star. Enter unlikely couple number one, Alyce and Russell. Alyce at first seems a spinster, but in short measure her adolescent marriage to the much older Blackie is revealed. Having just met him at a dance hall, Alyce is being courted by Russell, the puzzling used car salesman who seems to have set his sights on her for the simple sake of winning. David Mogentale plays this insipid character with such subtlety and implied treachery that his façade of honesty is convincing. Really, a great performance, and one that helps keep the script for HIGH PRIEST OF CALIFORNIA (adapted by the novelist himself) from the murky waters it often treads on.

Unlikely couple number two, Ruthie and Stanley, is more straightforward, but no less adulterous. Stanley is married, and paramour Ruthie is his dying wife’s nurse. Next to Alyce’s developing situation, theirs seems almost conventional, even for 1953. As HIGH PRIEST OF CALIFORNIA progresses, it becomes a struggle for the dominance of Alyce. Blackie has need, but the unscrupulous Russell has tenacity, and a lack of the moral compass that would rein another man in. He plays dirty.

A moral quagmire of the kind found most often in fiction, HIGH PRIEST OF CALIFORNIA is a dark, unlikely world that is interesting to visit, but that I would not want to live in.

- Kessa De Santis -

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