If not for others who am I?
The titular character in the drama, written by the brilliant playwright Timothy McNeil and directed by the equally fantastic David Fofi, is about a sarcastic, sexually-charged asshole who used to be a comic. There’s nothing funny about Richard (beautifully played by Jonathan Goldstein). He is Schlomo, which is a riff of his Jewish name. He makes his debut entrance as if he’s doing one of his acts at the Laugh Factory. He’s sloppily dressed in dirty white socks, faded pajama pants and a worn out grey T-shirt with an angry looking mouse emblazoned on the front. He’s been married twice. Wife number one was a hairstylist from Manhattan. That union lasted 3 years. The second one was once Queen of the Strippers. Now, he has regular hook ups with his on-again/off-again lover Golina (Vera Cherny). Besides enjoying Golina’s breasts, Richard enjoys taking hits from his huge bong dubbed Princess. The people around him appear more messed up then Richard but they all think he’s the one that needs help.
There’s his upstairs neighbor Jackson (Danny Parker) a very bad cocaine drug dealer who gets Richard on the hook for money every time he snorts a few lines. As they watch the football game eating pizza and guzzling beer, an edgy Jackson pokes fun at Richard’s former comic career. Asking all sorts of stupid questions, while doing coke, Jackson laughs at his own unamusing jokes. As the two immerse themselves in their senseless conversation, Richard’s former step-daughter RFK (Lilian Bowden) drives in from Ohio to Los Angeles to see him. Well, she actually came “to visit her people” the Jews and goes through the process on becoming Jewish. He’s neither impressed nor appreciative. He repeats many times that he was only her step-father for 9 months. Such an ass! She affectionately refers to him as “poppi” which gets under his skin. They test each other, almost like circling buzzards, to see who will break first. Their favorite topic is RFK’s mother, wife number two, whom Richard simultaneously speaks about with fondness and perverse callousness. Richard makes a loud silence when RFK describes in a painful detail how her mother was a wreck after he left. Other than being an angry bastard, this is the only true form of emotion he is willing to display.
Rounding off this cast of poorly functioning characters is Jackson’s wife Lydia (Nikki McCauley). She is so sweet and endearing. She’s not harsh as the others. She’s more of a mother figure that RFK desperately needs. However, it boggles the mind why she intends to stay with her physically abusive husband Jackson. One night, after one of their fights, she races down to Richard’s with a severely bruised eye and crying. Then the drama ensues when Jackson chases her. It’s heart wrenching to watch let alone hear Jackson verbally abuse this kind woman who never loses her sweetness in spite of the beatings.
Goldstein worked the hell out of his role. One minute you like Richard and enjoy his company and the next you wish he snort the longest line of cocaine to end his misery and yours for knowing such an insufferable human being. Bowden is absolutely loveable as Richard’s step-daughter. Who else can have the name of a Kennedy and make it look so good? Mad love to McCauley as the touching Lydia. You gotta love the girl. She’s got heart and isn’t afraid to display it. Cherny makes Galina fearless. She gets Richard and knows him better than anyone else. She doesn’t take his nonsense while at the same time can’t resist him. As for Parker, it takes guts to play such a villainous character with no moral fiber and do it so damn well!
McNeil’s brilliance lies within making damaged people human and forgiving their sins. Jackson, of course, is not one of those individuals. But, Lydia, RFK, and Galina and to some degree Richard, deserve some type of absolution for all they are going through. Fofi brilliantly manages to bring out the buried vulnerability that everyone, except Lydia, buries so deep to prevent them from seeing that their wounds no longer bleed.
Eloquently written and heartfelt this powerful story has no winners but doesn’t prevent the audience from feverishly hoping that a miracle will surface.
Schlomo is the most touching, feel-it-in-your-gut type of show that will bring out anyone’s humanity. Even assholes.
Schlomo plays Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., until Saturday February 9th, at The Elephant Space Theatre, located at 6322 Santa Monica Blvd., in Hollywood. For ticket information call (323) 960-4442 or reserve online at www.plays411.com/schlomo