Site Map | View Guestbook | Sign Guestbook | Site Info | Contact Webmaster 








Paul Myrvold's Theatre Notes: 'Handjob' at Echo Theatre

(c) paulmyrvoldstheatrenotes.wordpress.com

September 10, 2019



By Paul Myrvold

I must be leading a sheltered life here in my apartment in the greater Los Angeles megalopolis. I thought I was pretty much up on things. I read the Times and the New Yorker. I watch the ever-saddening news. I talk to lots of people. I see lots of plays. But until I signed up to review Erik Patterson’s Handjob, now in its world premiere production at Echo Theater Company, I had no notion that shirtless cleaners are a thing; that is, persons who come to one’s abode, take off their shirt or blouse or whatever and go about dusting, sweeping, vacuuming and so forth for a high price and a short stay. And the occupant gets to watch. I have seen the vans with “Topless Maids” inscribed on them, but never really grokked that it might be literal.

Steven Culp and Michael Rishawn in Echo Theater Company’s world premiere production of Erik Patterson’s “Handjob,” directed by Chris Fields, now running through October 21 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.
Photo by Darrett Sanders.
Steven Culp in Echo Theater Company’s world premiere production of Erik Patterson’s “Handjob,” directed by Chris Fields, now running through October 21 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.
Photo by Darrett Sanders.

Mr. Patterson’s extraordinary, whiz-bang of a script, puts shirtless cleaning on eye-popping display. Keith (Steven Culp), a handsome fortyish writer of words to be performed on screen or stage or television, engages Eddie (Michael Rishawn), a tall man, stunningly chiseled, wonderfully spoken, and charismatic in the extreme, who takes off his shirt and starts in on the work, beginning with dusting. That he is African American, seems incidental, until it isn’t. That Keith is gay and Eddie isn’t doesn’t seem significant…until it is.

The scene ends, there are some minor set changes, and a new scene begins in a similar way, only this time, the apartment owner, Kevin (Stephen Guarino), is bigger and heavier, and the cleaner, Bradley (Ryan Nealy) is shorter, not quite as muscled, and talks with a distinct New York accent. In this iteration, the relationship starts to smoke and leans toward the title.

In a playwright’s device that calls to mind Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, the action suddenly becomes fraught and the verbiage scintillatingly intellectual and passionate. The stakes are high and words flow powerful and gripping. There is important stuff here. Another character, Susan (Tamarra Graham), injects herself into the fray, in a commanding way that brooks no backtalk, while Kate (Gloria Ines) tidies up. The tension in the scene is thrilling.

The true issues are revealed in the final scene between Keith and Eddie that may be called an extended dénouement that keeps the audience rapt in pin-drop silence. This show is not to be pigeonholed as a “Gay play.” It is so much more than that.

The ensemble, under the scintillating direction of Chris Fields, is…oh, where is le mot juste? Formidable! Magnifique!

Handjob is well served by the creative staff of scenic designer Amanda Knehans; lighting designer Jared A. Sayeg; sound designer Jeff Gardner; costume designer Ann Closs-Farley; intimacy coach Benjamon Toubia. LMFT; and graphic designer Christopher Komuro. The production stage manager is Rebecca Schoenberg. The associate producer is Ariel Labasan, and Chris Fields and Rachael Zambias produce for the Echo Theater Company.

Handjob is without doubt one of the most electrifying shows currently in production in Southern California. Don’t miss it. Handjob runs through October 21 at Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue in Los Angeles.


DISCLAIMER: This site is a Steven Culp fan site and is not affiliated with Steven Culp, his family or any of his representatives.
Unless otherwise noted, all captures were made by me from videos from various sources. All shows and photos belong to their respective owners.
NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED!
© 2004-2019 SConTV.com and Steven-Culp.com