On Thursday night at Theatre Theater near Mid-City, Rogue Machine Theatre presented its eighth monthly “Rant & Rave,” self-described as “An Ongoing Art Project Where Prose Finds Voice.” In the timeless form of nonfiction first-person prose, eight men and women waxed narrative around this month’s topic – yes, February’s – love.
But this was far from an evening of Hallmark cards. As if anyone needed proof that Los Angeles fosters dazzling wits, every piece was original, enrapturing, and deeply relatable. This included Michael Redfield’s praise of fatherhood versus the haze of twenty-something-hood while his wife and infant daughter stood by, and Betsy Zajko’s chronology of how one’s unique heart is shaped by both the good and the bad.
It also included a pleasing hybridization of universal themes and local lore. In the work of Julio Martinez, theater critic and KPFK voice, both the golden heart of honest parenting and the totally disturbing reality of reality television made appearances. Even the political realities of love, the ones fueled by Prop 8 and the question of marriage across the country, came into play with Ralph Bruneau and Katherine Cortez. Their tales were poignant and quiet, but firm, reminders that politics is not a player in who loves whom, but rather an unwelcome jury to the private and the sacred.
Michael O’Keefe read his poems straight, while Douglas Kearney created prose from poems, the latter eliciting shouts of praise with a streaming exploration of how to write a love poem for a wife who does not want a “love poem.” Deborah Puette, the evening’s stand-out for timing and poise, achieved a unique sense of love first appearing: not taken for granted, or easily felt, but simply waiting for the right moment to enter, unexpected and strong.
Creator/producers Roxanne Hart and John Pollono played a part in the pace of the evening, which neither rushed the audience into philosophy of the heart nor put the evening’s album on a repeat of parenting stories. The evening felt cohesive even as it featured a tremendous variety of attitude and style. (Furthermore, with Ron Bottitta acting as a clever MC, the impressive résumés of each reader didn’t go unrecognized.) Martinez’s familiar and easy way preceded Redfield’s excitability, then Zajko’s quiet sting. Bruno’s wisdom as a counselor led to an intermission as cheerful and chatty as a well-planned cocktail party in the intimate black box theater setting. Puette’s remarkable storytelling abilities brought the audience back to attention. (She swung “the role of a 5-year-old in a petticoat” during her eighth pregnant month.) O’Keefe’s arresting presence led smoothly into Cortez’s reality check, while the live praises for Kearney’s work ended the Rant & Rave of Love with an audience enthusiastic for more.
The next Rant & Rave event will be held on March 15, with the theme “secrets” and with performers to be announced. Tickets are $15, but often sell out. Email RSVP@roguemachinetheatre.com to reserve a ticket at will call. For more information, check www.roguemachinetheatre.com.