MY OLD LADY, Israel
Horowitz's latest work, now in its West Coast
premiere at the Mark Taper Forum, is more character study than play.
Horowitz eschews story for the peeling back of disposition, layer after
layer, until a chunk of truth is revealed.
It's a testament to
his skill as a writer that he can hold an audience's
attention with little more than a series of confrontations between three
self-absorbed people who are just the other side of unlikable and are
haunted by the past that they can barely function in the present.
Horowitz is greatly aided by his cast, who contribute some of the finest
acting seen locally in a long time. Sian Phillips plays the eponymous
old lady, Mathilde Giffard, a 94-year-old living in a Paris apartment
belonging to her lover, a recently deceased American businessman. When
the businessman's son, Mathias "Jim" Gold (Peter Friedman),
shows up to claim the flat, he discovers that a quirky French law gives
her the right to reside in it until death, along with her daughter Chloe
(Jan Maxwell), a middleaged, unmarried woman.
Friedman, who is
broke and shabby, is desparate to sell the apartment,
but the elegant and rooted Mathilde will not allow it. The two battle
verbally, but as they do secrets begin to emerge, painful revelations
that catch Chloe up as well. The past becomes all-important with its father
& son/mother & daughter tribulations and recriminations. Jim blames
his own failures on his father, just as Chloe blames hers on Mathilde,
who of course defends herself as defiantly as she can.
Just when the play begins to resemble a Strindbergian battleground,
Horowitz flips the narrative on its head, turning it into a love story.
It would be unfair to give its final revelations--and resolution--away.
Suffice to say that the play has profound things to say about the way human
beings can survive pain and failure with the help of others.
(At the Mark Taper
Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. through Feb. 10.
Call 213-628-2772 or visit www.TaperAhmanson.com)